The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Where will Hurricane Ian hit hardest? Here’s the outlook for 9 cities.

Impacts may also be felt outside the state, including Atlanta, Charleston and Raleigh.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite image shows Hurricane Ian approaching Florida on Sept. 28 at 11:41 a.m. Ian strengthened to a Category 4 storm as it headed toward Florida. (NOAA/GOES/AFP via Getty Images)

Hurricane Ian has rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and is hours from making landfall, probably around Port Charlotte, Fla. Ian could reach Category 5 strength before landfall, but the storm will cause historic and catastrophic damage regardless of whether it strengthens further.

The dangerous storm already made landfall in western Cuba around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, killing at least two people and plunging the entire island of 11 million people into darkness after it was lashed with heavy rains, fierce winds and life-threatening storm surge.

Low-lying and flood-prone, Tampa Bay area braces for first major storm in a century

While a difference of dozens of miles could dramatically change the fortunes of those in the landfall area, nearly all of Florida will see some impact from Ian. Conditions will continue to deteriorate today, and impacts from Ian will spread into the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic by later this weekend.

Hurricane Ian is expected to hit Florida on Sept. 28, bringing with it heavy rains, damaging winds and extensive flooding. (Video: John Farrell/The Washington Post)

Hurricane warnings have been posted from near Florida’s southern tip to Tarpon Springs. Cities under the warning include Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota and Fort Myers. To the north, tropical storm warnings have been posted across the Florida Panhandle to Apalachicola, as well as on the Atlantic side of Florida up through all of coastal South Carolina.

Here is a look at the forecast for several cities.

Miami

While the core of the storm is expected to pass to the west and north, Miami has been put under a tropical storm warning for the possibility of sustained winds climbing to tropical storm force.

Regardless of how windy it gets, the city is already seeing impacts from Ian; a flood watch and tornado watch are posted. Several tornadoes are reported to have touched down in Southern Florida, including a likely tornado that damaged planes at North Perry Airport. Four to 6 inches of rain have already fallen across much of southern Florida, and an additional 2 to 4 inches, with the potential for nearly double that, will be possible in and around the Miami area.

As Ian draws closer to Florida, winds could gust as high as 45 mph in the Miami area. The National Hurricane Center gives Miami about a 60 percent chance of seeing sustained tropical storm conditions. A modest storm surge of up to 1 foot is also possible.

Fort Myers

The city on Florida’s southern Gulf Coast may face some of the worst of the storm. Fort Myers is under a storm surge warning, a tornado watch and a hurricane warning, with a flood watch also in effect until Thursday night. Tropical-storm-force winds are expected through Thursday evening, with gusts up to 85 mph. Sustained hurricane-force winds, over 74 mph, are possible.

The National Hurricane Center is warning of the possibility that wind speeds could climb to greater than 110 mph, and is encouraging local residents to plan for that possibility.

The worst of the storm surge is forecast in and around the city, with a “life-threatening and historic” storm surge of 12 to 16 feet above ground level possible in the area. Freshwater flooding is also likely, with an additional 3 to 6 inches of rainfall, with locally higher amounts possible.

Ian forecast: Major hurricane landfall expected along Florida’s west coast

Port Charlotte, just to the north, may take the worst of Ian head-on. There, the hurricane warning warns of 100-120 mph winds, with gusts to 150 mph. The storm surge there could be even more devastating, with the potential for up to 18 feet of inundation.

Tampa

Ian is now forecast to spare Tampa from a direct landfall, but significant impacts from Ian remain near certain. The city is under a storm surge warning, a tornado watch, a hurricane warning and a flood watch. Recent computer model forecasts have the storm making landfall to the south, somewhat reducing the potential storm surge in a city extremely vulnerable to it.

Still, those in Tampa should be ready for the worst, and the National Hurricane Center is forecasting 4 to 6 feet of surge, though a higher storm surge is possible as Ian continues to strengthen.

Tropical storm conditions began Wednesday morning and are expected to last until Thursday afternoon. With Tampa now an unlikely spot for landfall, sustained hurricane conditions are not expected, though winds may gust to Category 1 strength. Still, residents should prepare for a potential change in the forecast that places Tampa at risk of winds up to 110 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Between the wind and storm surge along parts of the west-central and southwest Florida coastline, the National Hurricane Center has warned that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

Extraordinary amounts of rainfall are also forecast. The National Hurricane Center is calling for 10 to 15 additional inches of rainfall in Tampa, with locally higher amounts possible — more than enough to cause widespread urban and freshwater flooding. Tornadoes remain possible as the storm tracks closer to the city.

Sarasota

Sarasota will see substantial impacts from Ian, though the most recent forecast from the National Weather Center puts the landfall south of the city, near Port Charlotte, Fla. Regardless, Sarasota is expected to take a severe punch from the storm, with hurricane and storm surge warnings issued, as well as a tornado watch and a flood watch.

Sarasota is already seeing tropical storm conditions, with hurricane-force winds expected to begin Wednesday morning or early afternoon. Sustained wind speeds are expected to climb to Category 3 strength, maxing out at 115 mph, with localized gusts to 145 mph possible. The wind threat from Ian continues to increase, though, and winds may end up stronger.

A potentially catastrophic and historic storm surge of 6 to 10 feet is possible in and around Sarasota, as well as an additional 8 to 12 more inches of rainfall. The National Hurricane Center is warning that Ian could render parts of Sarasota uninhabitable for weeks or months due to a combination of hazards.

A major storm could destroy Tampa Bay. People should be more worried.

Orlando

Orlando is inland, and thus not at risk of seeing any storm surge, though Ian’s path will take it inland and close to the Central Florida city, and it is growing increasingly likely it will still be at hurricane strength. A hurricane warning was issued for the city Tuesday afternoon. A flood watch and a tornado watch have also been posted for Orlando, which is expected to start seeing tropical storm conditions by Wednesday morning.

Tropical-storm conditions will begin Wednesday afternoon, sending sustained wind speeds climbing to at least 55 to 70 mph, with gusts up to 90 mph. The National Hurricane Center is warning that Orlando could see sustained winds of 74 to 110 mph possible, with residents asked to prepare for winds up to Category 2 force.

Widespread heavy rainfall is also expected, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain forecast, with more possible and extensive flooding likely in and around Orlando. Tornadoes will also be possible, with tropical thunderstorms continuing during the day.

Jacksonville

Although Jacksonville is a considerable distance from where Ian will come ashore, it is still predicted to see substantial impacts. The city is under a tropical storm warning and a flood watch, with conditions expected to deteriorate late Wednesday night into early Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center is warning residents to be prepared for wind speeds up to that of a low-end Category 1 hurricane, as uncertainty remains over exactly how strong Ian will be as it draws closer, as well as if the storm exits back over the Atlantic Ocean and restrengthens. At the moment, though, the peak winds forecast are just 25-35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph.

The big story in Jacksonville may end up being the rainfall, with an additional 10 to 15 inches of rain forecast, with locally higher amounts likely. The storm surge threat has also increased, with a life-threatening storm surge of 3 to 5 feet possible.

Tropical storm conditions could persist in the city through Friday. The forecast for Ian becomes murkier later in the week, as the storm could briefly exit off the Florida coastline into the Atlantic Ocean before crashing inland again in Georgia or the Carolinas, or remain inland and stay weaker. There is growing model support for the storm to exit into the Atlantic before making a second U.S. landfall.

Atlanta

Atlanta is unlikely to see significant impacts from Ian, though it is likely to bring rain and gusty winds to the city beginning Friday. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting 2 to 4 inches of rain and a near zero chance of tropical storm conditions.

If the storm tracks inland — which is looking less likely it is probable that Ian will have weakened substantially into a tropical depression by the time the storm’s center would pass close to the city.

Charleston

Tropical storm conditions are growing increasingly likely in Charleston on Friday, and a tropical storm warning and storm surge watch have been posted for the city. Sustained tropical storm conditions are now probable, with peak winds between 35 to 45 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph forecast.

Regardless of how strong the winds are, Ian is likely to bring rounds of heavy rainfall totaling 4 to 8 inches into the city beginning Thursday night through Saturday, with isolated tornadoes also possible.

A storm surge of 2 to 4 feet is also expected in surge-prone areas, with inundation possible starting early Thursday morning into Saturday evening.

Raleigh, N.C.

No watches or warnings of any kind have been posted for Raleigh, though Ian is expected to bring heavy rainfall there — and as far north as the District of Columbia — Friday night into the weekend.

Rainfall may begin to move into the Raleigh region Thursday, though the worst of the storm is expected to occur overnight Friday, with rounds of moderate to heavy rainfall possibly resulting in sporadic flooding. Raleigh is forecast to see 2 to 4 inches of rain, with parts of coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware now predicted to see 4 to 6 inches of rainfall from Ian.

The Atlantic hurricane season

The latest: The 2022 season started out slow, but has rapidly intensified this fall with conditions prime for storms. Fiona brought severe flooding to Puerto Rico before making landfall in Canada, and now we’re tracking Hurricane Ian as it heads for Florida. For the seventh year in a row, hurricane officials expect an above-average season of hurricane activity.

Tips for preparing: We rounded up seven safety tips to help you get ready for hurricanes. Here’s some other guidance about keeping your phone charged and useful in dangerous weather, and what to know about flood insurance.

Understanding climate change: It’s not just you — hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the U.S. more frequently in recent years. And last summer alone, nearly 1 in 3 Americans experienced a weather disaster. Read more about how climate change is fueling severe weather events.

Loading...