Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of “catastrophic” and “life-threatening” flooding Tuesday morning as Hurricane Ian strengthened into a mammoth Category 3 storm and churned ever closer to the Sunshine State.

“What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential,” DeSantis said, cautioning residents that Ian’s impact was now “imminent.”

Officials said they expect the hurricane to gain strength as it moves over the Gulf of Mexico before slamming into Florida in roughly 35 hours with winds whipping at a destructive 125 miles an hour.

“In some areas there will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surges,” DeSantis said.

Tampa and St. Petersburg were initially expected to be most vulnerable to a direct hit, but officials said Tuesday that the latest projections show landfall farther south with storm surges up to 9 feet from Bonita Beach in southwest Florida and 10 feet projected in the Tampa Bay area.

DeSantis said roughly 2.5 million Floridians are already under either a mandatory or recommended evacuation order and that traffic is beginning to choke highways in those areas.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged residents to be prepared for “life-threatening storm surges” as Hurricane Ian arrives.
AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

“Mother Nature is a very fearsome adversary. So please heed those warnings,” DeSantis said.

The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday that Ian will retain hurricane-force winds when it smacks into Florida and that 15 million people will face tropical storm-force gusts.

“Make sure you are executing your plan. This is imminent,” DeSantis said. “I would just tell all Floridians who are in the path of this that there is going to be interruptions in things like power. There’s going to be interruptions in fuel. There may be interruptions in communications.”

Hurricane Ian
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned residents there will be fuel and electricity shortages when Hurricane Ian lands.
NOAA via AP
Sandbags are set up in front of a cafe as a flood precaution for Hurricane Ian in St. Pete Beach, Florida.
Florida residents have been flocking to buy sandbags in preparation for Hurricane Ian.
RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

As of Tuesday, schools in 37 Florida counties announced closures for this week and that number is expected to grow as Ian bears down.

Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and other campuses have also canceled classes ahead of Ian’s arrival.

The storm hammered Cuba Tuesday morning, with some areas expected to see up to 16 inches of rain along with 14-foot storm surges along the island’s western coast.

Cty workers distribute sand bags to residents at Lake Maggiore Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.
City workers distribute sandbags to residents at Lake Maggiore Park in St. Petersburg, Florida.
CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Residents board up windows in Indian Shores, Florida.
Residents board up windows in Indian Shores, Florida.
RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport announced that it will suspend operations at 1 p.m. Tuesday, followed by nearby Tampa International, which will close at 5 p.m.

Central Florida’s Orlando International Airport remains open, but said it is closely monitoring the hurricane.


Here’s everything to know about Hurricane Ian:


DeSantis has ordered a statewide state of emergency and called up 5,000 National Guard members to assist with storm preparation and to address the storm’s aftermath.

Residents from Miami to Jacksonville swarmed stores and gas stations Tuesday morning to stock up on supplies, with shelves already cleared out in many locations across the state.

DeSantis implored Floridians not to underestimate the storm and to heed all local evacuation advisories.

“We can’t unring the bell if you stay and you end up getting washed away,” he said.



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