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Hurricane Ian continued to batter the Florida peninsula with a catastrophic trifecta of high winds, heavy rain and historic storm surge Wednesday night, even as it weakened to a Category 1 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.
Amid widespread flooding, property damage, power outages and water-rescue calls, and with the slow-moving hurricane inching inland hours after making landfall along Florida’s vulnerable western coastline, officials across the state continued to issue dire warnings to residents to stay inside.
The storm surge along the west coast of Florida has peaked and is beginning to recede as the storm moves inland, according to the hurricane center.
However, “water levels are quite high in those areas still and so it will take some time for the water to recede,” Cody Fritz, storm surge specialist at the National Hurricane Center, warned.
“There’s still plenty of onshore flow along the coast keeping water levels elevated, so while the peak surge values will decrease here relative to previous value, I still expect waters to be up for awhile and the need to maintain the storm surge warnings,” Fritz said.
In Collier County, authorities have been inundated with water rescue calls. The Sheriff’s Office said it’s in “call triage mode” and getting numerous calls of people trapped by water.
“At this point the majority of our 911 calls are water rescues,” Collier County Sheriff’s Office Chief Stephanie Spell told CNN in a phone call.