As Hurricane Ian slowly crawls across the state of Florida, moving at less than 10 miles per hour, officials are telling residents to expect major flooding problems, and warning them that it’s too dangerous for most emergency workers to attempt rescues.
As a result, some communities are telling residents to get to the highest-level of their home and await rescue, which could be days away even as floodwaters continue to rise.
Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, packing winds in excess of 150 miles per hour as it made its way onshore to the south of Tampa.
Storm surges of up to 18 feet were reported in some areas, inundating neighborhoods and lifting homes and other structures clean off of their foundations.
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The slowly-moving storm is also dumping tremendous amounts of rain on the state, with some areas potentially seeing 20 or more inches of rain before all is said and done.
In addition to the storm surge and the flooding, the threat of tornadoes also looms large, with more than a dozen reported across the state. One ripped the roof off of an apartment complex in Del Ray Beach, according to residents.
“All of the sudden I felt something and then heard like a train come through the house,” one resident said.
Officials say that resources will be ready to move in as soon as the storm passes, but they caution that the devastation is going to take weeks, or even months, to fully process.
“This is not just a 48-hour ideal,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “This is something that will be there for days, weeks and months, and unfortunately in some circumstances, even years.”
As conditions continue to deteriorate, some residents are still in their homes trying to ride out the storm, including former Elgin resident Kai Rush, who now lives in Largo, located between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
“It’s blowing so hard that it’s rocking the water in the toilets,” he said.
Rush says he still has power, and he’s thanking his lucky stars.
“You want to be around people you know when disaster happens,” he said.
Other former Illinois residents have not been so lucky, Rush said.
“(Some friends’) whole house is caved in,” he said. “They’re in their garage right now.”
As of 9:30 p.m. Central, the storm was still producing sustained winds of 115 miles per hour near its eye, and was drifting to the north at just eight miles per hour.
Virtually the entire Florida peninsula is at a “high” risk of flash flooding, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane conditions are expected to persist through Thursday in Florida, with ferocious winds and heavy rains expected to continue even as the storm continues to move northward toward Georgia.
Life-threatening storm surges could occur in northeastern Florida, Georgia and even South Carolina late Thursday and into Friday, with officials in those areas already declaring states of emergency.