NOTE: Track live radar of the storm as it nears landfall in the feed above
UPDATE: Hurricane Ian has made landfall. Read more here.
Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified as it neared landfall along Florida's southwest coast Wednesday morning, gaining top winds of 155 mph (250 kph), just shy of the most dangerous Category 5 status. Damaging winds and rain lashed the state, and the heavily populated Naples to Sarasota region was at highest risk of a devastating storm surge.
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Ian was centered about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west-southwest of Naples at 7 a.m., swirling toward the coast at 10 mph (17 kph).
“This is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said early Wednesday, stressing that people in Ian's path along the coast should rush to the safest possible shelter and stay there.
The massive storm appeared on track to slam ashore somewhere north of Fort Myers and some 125 miles (201 kilometers) south of Tampa, sparing the bay area from a rare direct hit from a hurricane. The area is popular with retirees and tourists drawn to pristine white sandy beaches and long barrier islands, which forecasters said could be completely inundated.
Track live radar of the storm as it nears landfall in the feed above.
Catastrophic storm surges could push as much as 12 feet (3.6 meters) to 16 feet (4.9 meters) of water over coastal areas straddling Punta Gorda and Fort Myers, which are between Naples and Sarasota, the hurricane center warned. Rainfall near the area of landfall could top 18 inches (46 centimeters).
“If you are in any of those counties it is no longer possible to safely evacuate. It’s time to hunker down and prepare for the storm," DeSantis said. “Do what you need to do to stay safe. If you are where that storm is approaching, you’re already in hazardous conditions. It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly. So please hunker down."