Ian projected to make second landfall in South Carolina as Category 1 hurricane
The hurricane made landfall near the Florida city of Port Charlotte, on the state's central Gulf Coast.
Observers expect Tropical Storm Ian to make its second landfall somewhere along the South Carolina coast on Friday and to do so as a Category 1 hurricane.
Ian was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm amid its departure from Floridian territory. Experts expect its entry into the Atlantic Ocean will allow it to again pick up strength before returning to the North American coast, NPR reported. Ian regained hurricane status on Thursday afternoon, per the New York Times.
Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida's central Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon, brining winds of about 155 mph and driving rain that began to batter the region shortly after daybreak. While many fatalities remain unconfirmed, President Joe Biden warned that the storm may have wreaked record havoc.
"This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life," he said on Thursday.
Officials said before the eye of the storm reached the coast that roughly 624,000 power outages had already been reported.
The storm on Tuesday raked across Cuba, knocking out the island nation's entire power grid and leaving residents in the dark.
The storm's top speed of 155 mph when making landfall was just below the threshold of being a Category 5 hurricane – the most dangerous classification. A Category 5 hurricane has winds of at least 157 mph.
Already, at least 50,000 power outages have been reported in in just Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, per the Tampa Bay Times.
"This is a major, major storm," Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a morning press conference in which he warned residents to continue to prepare for the worst. "I urge you to be cautious."
"It is going to have major, major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding," he said, per USA Today. "So this is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days."
DeSantis also detailed what his administration has done to get ready, including activating thousands of National Guard troops and opening roughly 200 shelters, hurricane preparedness he called "unprecedented."
As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities were searching for 23 migrants from a boat that sank off the coast of Florida earlier that day, according to CNN. Moreover, the evacuation remains incomplete with at least 43 people still stranded on the barrier island of Gasparilla.