Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave a briefing ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Ian later on Wednesday. warning residents of several western counties that “safe evacuation is no longer possible.”
“This is a big, big storm. It’s something we knew was going to be significant. This thing over the last night has strengthened in a very, very significant way,” DeSantis said.
“[It] potentially … it could make landfall as a Category 5, but clearly this is a very powerful and major hurricane that will have major impacts in both Southwest Florida, but then as it continues to work through the state it will have major, major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding. So this is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days. Probably, we think now, it will leave the peninsula sometime on Thursday,” he said.
DeSantis warned that the greatest risk is from Collier County to Sarasota County, with landfall expected in Charlotte County.
“If you are in any of those counties, it is no longer possible to safely evacuate. Time to hunker down and prepare for this storm. This is a powerful storm that should be treated like a tornado coming toward your house, DeSantis said.
At least 40,000 power outages have been reported, DeSantis said. “Outside of Southwest Florida, crews are responding to those power outages,” he said.
According to the governor, “there are more than 30,000 linemen organized and ready for power restoration efforts throughout the state of Florida.”
He warned residents to heed warnings from local officials and not to go outside until the storm has passed.
“Even if it seems calm, wait to make sure the storm has actually passed. Once the storm has passed and it is safe to go outside, I urge you to be cautious. Avoid downed power lines. Avoid standing water. Stay away from damaged trees. If you’re using a generator for power, make sure it’s running outside of your house. Don’t operate that indoors. And then don’t drive on flooded streets,” he said.
DeSantis also said there are 5,000 activated Florida National Guardsmen, as well as 2,000 from neighboring states.