After a day in which it pounded Florida and diminished from a Category 4 hurricane into a tropical storm, Ian exited the state Thursday and entered the Atlantic Ocean, where it powered up once again into a hurricane.
Ian was just a Category 1 storm as of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 p.m. update, a relic of the monster that came ashore Wednesday in southwest Florida and then scraped central Florida throughout the day and night with high winds and heavy rains. The storm packed maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, just enough to elevate it again to hurricane status.
Forecasters expect Ian will bend into the Carolinas on Friday, where it is a threat to bring heavy flooding, storm surge and strong winds.
The 8 p.m. update said Ian’s center was about 215 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, and about 300 miles south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Ian was slogging along, moving to the north-northeast at about 10 mph. Forecasters expect Ian to turn to the north, and then turn toward the north-northwest while picking up speed and strengthening some.
After hitting the Carolinas, forecasters expect Ian to dissipate or become absorbed by another area of low pressure by this weekend.
Meanwhile, forecasters are watching the progress of Tropical Depression 11 in the Atlantic Ocean. The depression remained hundreds of miles from land — about 950 miles from the Cabo Verde Islands — and had maximum sustained winds of 30 mph as of 5 p.m. Thursday. The Hurricane Center said wind shear will make it unlikely the depression will develop further.
A tropical wave also popped up in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa at 2 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters said conditions are fair for the wave to develop further early next week as it moves west to northwest in the eastern Atlantic. The Hurricane Center gave the wave a 30% chance of forming the next five days.
The National Weather Service in Tampa Bay said conditions are improving in our area.
Coastal water levels are subsiding along the west coast of Florida, the Hurricane Center said in an update.
Forecasters said a combination of storm surge and normal tides will cause normally dry areas near the east coast of Florida to flood from rising waters moving inland. Forecasters also said life-threatening storm surge could occur Friday along the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Hurricane-force winds are expected across South Carolina beginning Friday. Forecasters said hurricane conditions are possible through Friday in northeastern Florida and Georgia.
The Hurricane Center said “ongoing major-to-record river flooding” will continue across parts of central Florida, with considerable flooding in north Florida. Forecasters also said flash and urban flooding is expected across portions of northeast Florida through Friday. Southeastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina are also expected to see significant flooding through the end of the week.
Ian made landfall in southwest Florida just after 3 p.m. Wednesday as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm. For a time, winds were sustained at 155 mph, just shy of a Category 5 storm.
The Tampa Bay area was largely spared from Ian’s catastrophic winds and storm surge after a turn to the east Monday caused the storm’s eyewall hit the barrier Island of Cayo Costa, near Sanibel and Captiva, around 3:05 p.m. Wednesday.
In Fort Myers, Times reporter Zachary T. Sampson and photographer Douglas R. Clifford documented the devastation Ian left behind.
“Absolute devastation,” said Jennifer Campbell, a local fire marshal. “There’s barely anything left.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said the death toll from Ian in Lee County is still unclear Thursday morning, and said a comment made by Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno that there are “fatalities in the hundreds” was “basically an estimate.”
Evacuation orders from Pinellas County were lifted Thursday morning. Hillsborough County and Pasco County followed suit, lifting their respective evacuation orders.
Many Tampa Bay roads and bridges were closed due to downed trees and power lines. If you venture out, remember to treat inoperable traffic signals as a 4-way stop.
PHOTOS: See images of Hurricane Ian’s devastating impact
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane coverage
TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
SCHOOLS: Will schools reopen quickly after Hurricane Ian passes? It depends.
SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.
IT’S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
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Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change
PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.
PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don’t understand the risk.
PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?
INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.