Inside the extreme weather of Hurricane Ian

Weather 2 the Extreme with Caroline Brown (KPRC 2, Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Hello and welcome back for another look at wild weather this week. Today will be a little different as I am only going to focus on Hurricane Ian as it bears down on the Sunshine State.

Hurricane Ian:

We have been tracking Hurricane Ian as it moved into the Gulf and it has become a worse case scenario with catastrophic damage expected. Mandatory evacuations have been issued this week and many heeded the warning, but with all systems some folks stayed behind due to being an essential worker, or making the decision to risk it.

Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified overnight with the maximum winds strengthening 30 kts in 12 hours. Hurricane Ian is now a major Category 4 hurricane as it moves onshore. This is a monster of a hurricane and it will bring life threatening storm surge, catastrophic flooding from rainfall, devastating hurricane force winds, and tropical tornadoes.

Ian is moving onshore. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Storm surge threat:

The storm surge threat is catastrophic with the National Hurricane Center projecting 12-18 feet from Englewood to Bonita Beach. This means most of Punta Gorda, Fort Myers and Port Charlotte will be inundated. Water will flow into the second story of homes.

Storm surge over 12 feet is possible. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The storm surge on the way is evident by the receding water at Tampa Bay. Boats are now sitting on the ground as the water has been pulled out into the Gulf. This water is forming a dome, which will move onshore as storm surge. Think of how water recedes before a tsunami, but in this case, instead of moving back in the same place Ian will push it onshore on the “dirty side” of the hurricane (including Fort Myers).

Tampa shoreline expands as powerful hurricane drags water out to sea

Wind threat:

Maximum sustained winds are at 155 mph, with gusts up to 190 mph. This has triggered widespread hurricane warnings with power outages likely for a long time, over a quarter a million folks already without power in Florida. This is a strong Category 4 hurricane and the devastation will be catastrophic and unlivable for many. At this point it doesn’t matter if it’s a Category 4 or Category 5, it is equally devastating.

Wind Whips Palm Trees as Hurricane Ian Approaches Southwest Florida

Rainfall threat:

Hurricane Ian has been slowing in speed, and this is a concerning trend. The slower the storm moves, the more rainfall we will see in Florida. The Weather Prediction Center has issued a high risk (level 4 on a scale of 4) for flooding with up to two feet of rainfall possible. This is life-threatening flooding, and will flood rivers and streams -- even inland.

Intense Wind and Rain Flood Streets in Key West as Hurricane Ian Approaches

Tornado threat:

Several tornadoes have already been confirmed across southern Florida as Ian moves onshore. The outer rain bands have a lot of inherent rotation which allows for quick spin ups. Although most tropical tornadoes are weak, it is possible to have a strong tornado so all the warnings must be taken seriously.

Footage by Andres Garcia captured the scene in Hallandale Beach in Metropolitan Miami. Rough waves can be seen lapping at the beach as lightning flashes through dark storm clouds. Credit: Andres Garcia via Storyful

We’re just getting started:

Hurricane Ian coverage has only just begun. This system will leave impacts for weeks, months if not years to come. We are also still in the middle of tropical season. If you need more resources on how to prepare if a hurricane came to your location, or if you have questions on how these systems form and how they get ranked check out to watch our one-hour Hurricane and Flood Survival Guide special.

About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.