More than 2,000 flights were canceled Wednesday across the US, data shows
From CNN's Pete Muntean
As Hurricane Ian is set to make landfall in Florida, more than 2,000 US flights have now been canceled Wednesday, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.
Another 1,600 flights have already been canceled for Thursday, a two-day total topping 3,600 flights. Airlines are canceling flights in order to ensure their aircraft and crews are in safe locations and customers aren’t stranded as Ian approaches Florida.
Airports in Orlando, Miami and Tampa are seeing the greatest number of cancellations. Tampa International airport is closed, and Orlando International is closed to all but emergency flights. Several other smaller airports in Florida are also closed.
American Airlines, which operates about 250 daily departures out of Miami — its fourth largest hub — has cancelled 583 flights, including mainline and regional service. It has waived change and cancellation fees.
Southwest Airlines tweeted that its employees are “working around the clock to track” Ian. It says the storm “is expected to cause continued disruptions.”
11:21 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
Amazon is pausing operations at some facilities as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida
From CNN’s Catherine Thorbecke
Amazon is temporarily pausing operations at some facilities as Hurricane Ian barrels towards Florida, the company confirmed to CNN on Wednesday.
“We’re closely monitoring the path of Hurricane Ian and making adjustments to our operations in order to keep our employees and those delivering for us safe,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha told CNN in a statement. “We’re in regular contact with our employees and delivery partners to ensure everyone is aware of any site closures or unsafe conditions and will continue to make adjustments as needed.”
CNBC previously reported that Amazon had closed sites near Tampa and Orlando, citing notices sent to employees
There are more than 8,000 full-time and part-time Amazon employees in the Tampa area. Employees scheduled to work will continue to be paid while sites are closed, according to Amazon.
11:17 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
What we know about Hurricane Ian's size and speed
From CNN's Brandon Miller
If Hurricane Ian hits at its current intensity or higher, it will be the strongest storm to ever make landfall on the west coast of the Florida Peninsula on record.
Hurricane Ian underwent another bout of rapid Intensification in the past 24 hours, with its top-end winds increasing by 40 mph (from 115 to 155 mph) in about 16 hours.
Hurricanes undergoing rapid intensification in the 24 hours before landfall have been increasingly common in recent years. This was happened with Hurricanes Michael, Ida and Harvey, among others.
What we know about the storm surge: The storm surge in southwest Florida is likely to be like nothing ever seen in the region.
Hurricane Charley, also a Category 4, hit the same area in 2004 and brought a max of 6 to 7 feet of storm surge. This could be at least twice as high.
Storm surge is expected to be higher than Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that brought a 9 to 14 feet surge to the Panhandle in 2018.
Hurricane Ian's size: Ian is a massive hurricane, which will worsen storm surge and spread damage over a larger area. Hurricane-force sustained winds spread over 80 miles across this storm. This is nearly double the size that Hurricane Charley was when it hit the same region (45 miles across).
Tropical-storm-force winds spread also across more than 320 miles, a distance that would reach from Washington, DC, to Cleveland, Ohio.
About Ian's speed: Ian is moving at 10 mph, and it will slow down more after landfall — less than half the speed that Hurricane Charley was moving at 22 mph. This will increase the potential storm surge Ian creates, as well as exposing areas to the intense winds and flooding rains for longer periods of time.
The storm is expected to slow down after landfall, moving at only 6 to 7 mph and taking more than 24 hours to move across Florida.
This could expose areas to hurricane-force winds for eight hours or more, and tropical-storm-force winds for well over 24 hours.
11:19 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
Tampa area schools closed until Friday, officials say
From CNN's Melissa Alonso
Hillsborough County Schools in the Tampa area will be closed until at least Friday, district officials said in an update Wednesday.
"County emergency operations officials have activated more than 50 of our schools as storm shelters to house community members who have evacuated the hurricane's path. Emergency officials need our schools as shelters for several days due to the potential of high winds and heavy rain from this hurricane," the district announced in a post on Facebook.
"For this reason, we will need to close schools through Friday, September 30th, in order to thoroughly clean campuses and we anticipate a return to school on Monday, October 3rd," said district officials. "We hope you and your family are safe and prepared for the impact of Hurricane Ian to our area," according to the post.
11:17 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
Tampa airport closed until Thursday, officials say
From CNN's Melissa Alonso
Tampa International Airport has extended its closure due to the hurricane.
"TPA remains closed to the public due to #HurricaneIan and there will be no departing flights through Thursday. Please check with your airline for the latest flight information. We will share a reopening date and time when it is determined," the airport said.
11:20 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
"Extremely dangerous eyewall of Ian moving onshore," National Hurricane Center says
In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Ian is starting to move onshore now.
The storm will cause "catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding" in the areas in its path soon, it added.
National Hurricane Center's acting Deputy Director Michael Brennan explained what will happen next.
"The eyewall of Ian is going to continue to move onshore for the next few hours and you're going to start to see those water levels rise — that big push of gulf water comes up" in places like Charlotte Habor, Punta Gorda, he said. "That's where we is see the 12 to 18 feet of storm surge inundation above ground level — that's three times as tall as I am. That's really an unsurvivable circumstance that’s going to unfold in southwest Florida over the next few hours."
Brennan said water levels are expected to remain elevated through Thursday.
"I would expect water levels to remain elevated all through tonight and into Thursday. In addition to that, you’re going to have several inches of rainfall that will flow in and not have anywhere to drain on the other end. It won't be able to go out in the harbors and into the gulf. So you’re going to have a widespread inundation event here," he told CNN.
11:52 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
Why water is receding ahead of Hurricane Ian's landfall
The National Weather Service in Tampa advised residents not to go near the beach even though water appears to be receding.
"The water WILL come back," the weather service said.
Water can recede when strong winds on the left side of the center of the storm push water out away from shore, according to CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.
Why storm surge is so dangerous: The National Weather Service says almost half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge.
“A storm surge is a rise in water level caused by a strong storm’s wind pushing water on-shore,” according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “The wind literally piles up the ocean water and pushes it on the land.”
11:10 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
More than 200,000 customers have lost power in Florida so far
From CNN's Jamie Loftus
The state of Florida has surpassed 200,000 customers without power, according to PowerOutage.us.
Collier County, which includes Naples and Marco Island, is still the most affected with over 43,000 customers out of power, according to the site.
The site also reports that Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral, has over 40,000 customer power outages.
11:13 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022
Fort Myers, Florida, resident says they're sheltering in place because "we have everything we need here"
Fort Myers, Florida, resident Chelsye Lynn Napier, who is sheltering in place in a mandatory evacuation zone, told CNN Wednesday that she and her family "felt safer" staying put during Hurricane Ian.
"We have everything we need here, food, water, as of now, we still have electricity. It's all okay for now, we'll see later on," she said.
Asked if they have a plan for where to hunker down inside their home, Napier said, "We talked about it ... we would go into the laundry room," adding, "there's no doors, no windows, it's just a small, compacted area."
Napier said that a few people inside their complex have chosen to stay as well, noting that her neighbors living below her also haven't evacuated. "There's still a couple of us here," she said.
Earlier Wednesday, Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said residents who have chosen to stay in their homes should shelter in place right now.
"We've got about 14 shelters open in the county, several thousand people have already gone to the shelters, but those who have chosen to stay home, they need to stay put right now. It's dangerous to go out there; there's the heavy rains, there's trees falling down, there's squalls, they're safer where they are," he told CNN.
Anderson said he is most concerned about storm surge, which the National Weather Service is predicting can get to up to 18 feet in the Fort Myers area.
He added that those who have a medical emergency can call 911 and get advice from responders, but there is no guarantee that EMS will be able to carry out rescues. As soon as it is safe, emergency response teams will be able to get into the field.