September 28, 2022 Hurricane Ian updates

By Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Seán Federico-O'Murchú and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:52 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022
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11:02 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

About 4,000 people are in shelters in Pinellas County, sheriff says

About 4,000 people have reported into shelters in Pinellas County, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Wednesday, a small percentage of the about 352,000 people who were placed under mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ian.

Gualtieri acknowledged that he does not know if other residents decided to evacuate to a safer part of Florida not in the path of the storm instead of checking into shelters in the area. Many residents placed under mandatory evacuation orders may choose to stay with family or friends outside of the evacuation zone.

Still, Gualtieri said officials are concerned with the number of people in shelters and wondered how many are sheltering in place.

"So either they stayed in place or they went someplace else. I can tell you when we had Irma, by contrast, at this point we had 23,000 people show up. So I'm concerned that people didn't heed the mandatory evacuation order and they're sitting in places where they're going to be in peril when we get these winds and rain later today," he told CNN.

He reiterated the importance of these shelters and evacuation order, pointing to the lack of emergency responders once the weather conditions get rough.

"We're not putting our people in peril when [the residents] didn't heed the mandatory evacuation order," he said. 

10:48 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Charlotte County Emergency Management director says he hopes people heeded the warnings and evacuated

From CNN’s Naomi Thomas

(CNN)
(CNN)

Patrick Fuller, emergency management director of Charlotte County, FL, said on CNN Wednesday that while he hopes people listened to advice and evacuated, now is the time for those that didn’t to “hunker down.” 

“We’ve had those evacuation orders in place now for almost two days,” Fuller said. “That provided time for our residents to take heed and to leave the area that are most likely to be impacted by storm surge. So, our hope is that our residents listened and took the lesson of Hurricane Charley from 2004.” 

“We hope that our residents did evacuate. We have shelters available, but now’s not the time to be on the roadways,” he said. “We’re beginning to experience these tropical storm-force winds and it’s only going to get stronger going forward.” 

Fuller said that the influx of new residents in the last couple of years is a concern. Prior to and during hurricane season, outreach has been targeted toward them, “really trying to hammer home that if you’ve never been through a hurricane season, here’s what you should expect,” and trying to explain terms like storm surge and the vulnerability of the area. 

He also noted that most emergency response agencies have stopped service at this point due to the winds. If a person calls 911 during the height of the storm, “we cannot come out and provide assistance,” he said, adding that they will talk people through their situations, but won’t immediately send help. 

“Now’s the time to go head and hunker down,” he said. “And, unfortunately, with hazardous conditions, it’s not safe for anyone, emergency responder or not, to be on the roadways.” 

Charlotte County is just north of Fort Myers and is the home of Punta Gorda, the Rotonda community and Port Charlotte.

10:44 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

City turns off water service to island of Venice, Florida

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Potable water service has been turned off to the island of Venice, Florida, ahead of Hurricane Ian.

“The City Utilities Department has discontinued potable water service to the island of Venice at this time to protect our infrastructure," the city announced in a post on Facebook.

The water was turned off Tuesday night and will remain off for the duration of the storm, the city's website said.

The city will continue to monitor the situation and “when the storm's wind speeds drop below 35 mph, utilities staff will look for leaks in the system, make repairs, and restore service.” Once water is restored, the island will be under a boil water advisory. 

The island of Venice sits between Tampa and Fort Myers on Florida’s western coast. 

10:39 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Biden on Hurricane Ian: "We are on alert and in action"

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden said the federal government is "on alert and in action" as Hurricane Ian bears down on Florida.

"We have approved every request Florida has made for temporary assistance, emergency assistance and long-term assistance," he said.

Planning included "dispatching hundreds of FEMA personnel and activating thousands of National Guard members," the President said.  

A search-and-rescue team is already on the ground, Biden said.

"FEMA pre-positioned millions of liters of waters, million of meals and hundreds of generators," he added.  

Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke yesterday. Biden also spoke with the mayors of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater on Tuesday.

10:44 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Biden warns oil and gas companies not to use Hurricane Ian as an "excuse to raise gasoline prices"

President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden speaks during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden warned oil and gas companies Wednesday to not use Hurricane Ian as "an excuse" to raise prices. 

"To the oil and gas industry — do not — let me repeat — do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people," the President said.

Biden continued: "The price of oil has been going down. My experts inform me the production of only about 190,000 barrels a day has been impacted by the storm thus far."

The President called this a "small temporary impact" on oil production, reiterating that this dip in production "provides no excuse — no excuse for price increases at the pump. None." 

Biden said that if gas companies try to use the storm to raise prices, he will ask officials to look into whether "price gouging" is happening.

"America is watching, and the industry should do the right thing," he said.

10:51 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Biden urges Floridians in Ian's path to listen to local officials: "This storm is incredibly dangerous"

President Biden urged Florida residents in the path of Hurricane Ian to heed the guidance of local emergency officials.

"This storm is incredibly dangerous, to state the obvious. It's life-threatening. You should obey all warnings and directions from emergency officials. Don't take anything for granted. Use their judgment, not yours. Evacuate when ordered. Be prepared," he said Wednesday.

Biden also promised federal assistance in rebuilding and recovery once the storm passes.

"When the storm passes, the federal government can be there to help you recover. We'll be there to help you clean up and rebuild to get Florida moving again. We'll be there every step of the way. That's my absolute commitment to the people of the state of Florida," he said.

10:31 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Sarasota police chief warns that rescue operations will be limited once winds go over 45 mph

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

(Sarasota Police Department)
(Sarasota Police Department)

Sarasota Police Department Chief Rex Troche said his department has “been going for 24 hours, and we'll be here until we're not needed anymore.” 

“This hurricane is coming,” Troche said. “It’s not a European model. This isn't the American model. This is the real model. It's on its way.” 

As the powerful Hurricane Ian continues to close in on Florida’s western coast, “we are going to feel the effects some way somehow, whether it's a lot of wind, rain or a combination of both,” he added. 

Troche warned that when winds exceed 45 mph, “it's going to be very limited response with respect to first responders.” 

“We're going do the best we can, but it's very difficult to put responders out there and put them in danger with these winds,” he added.

10:27 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Hillsborough County emergency director says those who ignored evacuation orders "have to stay" 

(CNN)
(CNN)

Timothy Dudley, director of Emergency Management for Florida's Hillsborough County, told CNN that if residents in the county "didn't heed our warning, or order to evacuate, you have to stay." 

Dudley said that for those who chose to stay, "hopefully they are out of the impact areas." 

"We ask you to go to the interior of your homes, ensure that you have all your family in those interior places, and make sure you can safely protect yourself from any debris that may compromise that building."

Dudley continued: "We are urging our residents to stay safe and avoid driving on flooded roads." He noted that after the storm passes residents should wait for local authorities to give the all-clear before venturing outside.

Dudley told CNN on Wednesday that in Hillsborough County, there are a "couple hundred thousand" people living in the zones for which they issued evacuation orders.

"It's quite a few people. We hope and expect that they have moved to a safe zone," he said.