More than 2 million people throughout the state of Florida were without power early Thursday as officials began to take stock of the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
The powerful storm made landfall in southwest Florida on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with winds in excess of 155 mph, leaving a path of destruction behind it as it moved northwest over the state.
As of early Thursday, more than 2.4 million people were without power, with at least three counties reporting near complete blackouts and 10 showing that more than 50% of customers were left in the dark, according to poweroutage.us.
Florida Power & Light warned Wednesday night that Hurricane Ian’s catastrophic winds mean “parts of our system will need to be rebuilt — not restored.”
“Be prepared for widespread, extended outages as we are assessing the damage,” it said in a statement. “We are already at work restoring power where we can do so safely.”
Jacksonville International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport and Orlando International Airport have canceled all flights for Thursday.
Though no casualties have yet to be reported in connection to the storm, more than 20 Cuban migrants whose boat sank off the Florida Keys on Wednesday were still missing Thursday morning.
Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar of U.S. Border Patrol’s Miami sector said the boat with 27 migrants onboard sank due to the inclement weather shortly before Hurricane Ian hit the Florida Keys.
Agents initiated a search and rescue operation after four of the migrants swam to Stock Island’s shore.
The U.S. Coast Guard later said crews were able to rescue another three people in waters about 2 miles south of Boca Chica with air crews still searching for other survivors.
In Collier County, which encompasses the city of Naples, the sheriff’s office Wednesday night said its East Naples deputies had conducted 30 rescue missions throughout the day with more on going.
“Water is every where,” the office said late Wednesday. “There will be damage.”
The sheriff’s office had said a few hours earlier that it was in “triage mode” and was responding to a “significant number of calls” from people trapped in their homes due to water.
The coastal city of Naples warned late Wednesday that half of its streets were made impassable due to high water and that tides may further bury them.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said water levels in Naples had reached more than 6 feet above normal tide ahead of Ian’s landfall, eclipsing the previous record of 4.25 feet set during 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Naples was under a curfew until further notice. The Naples Fire-Rescue Department has also issued a precautionary boil water notice for its entire drinking water service area.
It said it issued the notice “out of an abundance of cation as the city is currently experiencing system-wide pressure issues.”
It added that there were no water-main breaks that it was aware of and that staff will conduct field assessments as soon as it is safe to do so.
In Lee County, which borders Collier County to the south and includes Fort Myers, sheriff Carmine Marceno told reporters during a press conference Wednesday night that Hurricane Ian “has hit us real hard.”
He said they are reports of buildings compromised and vehicles floating out into the ocean, but the extent of the damage was not yet known.
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