An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft has indicated that Ian's maximum winds have increased to nearly 85 mph, according to a special update from the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is centered about 185 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, and is moving north-northeast at 10 mph, the hurricane center said late Thursday.
A hurricane warning has been issued from the Savannah River at the Georgia-South Carolina border to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
The city of Fort Myers Beach on Florida's southwest coast was leveled by Hurricane Ian, a local politician said late Thursday.
“I made it about two-thirds down the island and I'd say 90% of the island is pretty much gone,” Fort Myers Beach Town Councilman Dan Allers tells CNN’s Don Lemon. “Unless you have a high-rise condo or a newer concrete home that is built to the same standards today, your house is pretty much gone.”
Many people struggled to get to higher ground amid the storm surge, Allers said.
“I've heard stories of people getting in freezers and floating the freezers to another home … and being rescued by higher homes,” Allers said.
Instead of where homes stood, there's only rubble, the council member said.
“Every home pretty much on the beach is gone,” Allers said. “Some of the homes on the side streets are completely gone, and there's nothing but a hole with water,” he said.
Allers, who evacuated to higher ground during the storm, later discovered that his own home was lost.
"Everything obviously inside was gone," he said, although the structure survived. "We might be able to rebuild," he added.
Hurricane Ian has strengthened slightly with winds of 80 mph, according to the 11 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Ian is located about 185 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, with a track that has shifted slightly to the east, the hurricane center said.
Landfall is now expected just west of Myrtle Beach.
Storm surge, high winds and life-threatening flooding are still expected for much of the Carolinas on Friday, the advisory said.
The Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World will be the first theme park to open Friday as part of a phased resumption of activities at the Orlando-based entertainment complex, the company said late Thursday.
According to the timeline, the openings will be as follows:
- 10:00 a.m.: Magic Kingdom Park
- 11:00 a.m.: EPCOT
- 12:00 p.m.: Disney's Hollywood Studios
- 1:00 p.m.: Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
However, Disney Resort guests and those staying at other select hotels will be entitled to early entry that begins two hours prior to the listed times, the company said.
Among the other attractions, Disney's Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf will reopen at 3:00 p.m. and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will open from 5:00 to 8:00 pm for scheduled events.
Some attractions won't re-open Friday, the company said.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park will re-open on Sunday, and the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fairways Miniature Golf will stay "temporarily closed" for now.
A mandatory curfew has been set for Collier County, Florida, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to the sheriff's office.
The curfew will remain in effect until further notice, according to the Collier County Sheriff's Department.
“The purpose of the curfew is to protect the safety of the citizens of Collier County and their property as they begin the process of recovering from the effects of Hurricane Ian,” the statement said.
According to the statement, the curfew does not apply to emergency responders, employees at health care facilities, critical staff for businesses that provide essential services or those seeking medical assistance.
Collier County, with a population of around 385,000 people, is in southwest Florida and is home to the city of Naples.
Mayor of Sanibel Holly Smith said Thursday she plans to fly out to the hard-hit island tomorrow to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
While speaking with CNN’s John Berman, Smith reacted to on-air images of the destruction.
“I just want to say some of these images that you're showing me… it's the first time I've seen them, Smith said. “So, when I take a look at it, it's pretty emotional for me.”
Earlier Thursday. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Sanibel Causeway — the only connection to the mainland for Sanibel and Captiva islands — will need either a major overhaul or a complete rebuild.
Smith says one of her priorities is to assess the island’s power grid and clear roads to make sure it is safe for the residents who stayed behind.
When asked if the island was still livable for those who were there, Smith responded:
“Frankly, no but they do have the right to stay there. And right now, you know, it's important for us to just go ahead and say ‘OK, do you have food and water? Are you OK?’, as we go to those next areas because it's going to take a few days for us to get to all of the places.”
Hurricane Ian is intensifying as it moves toward the coast of South Carolina and, according to NOAA Tides and Currents, it could hit the state around high tide on Friday.
In Charleston, a city that is especially vulnerable to coastal flooding, the high tide is at 11:41 a.m. ET. In Myrtle Beach, high tide is at 11:18 a.m. ET.
Hurricane Ian is expected to move onshore near or just after these high tide times, according to forecasts.
Why this is important: Tidal ranges along the Eastern Seaboard are much larger than they are in the Gulf of Mexico. Ian initially made landfall in Cuba before hitting the southwestern coast of Florida on Wednesday.
In Charleston and Myrtle Beach, the difference in water levels from high to low tide is around 6 feet. This could be critical because a storm surge of 4-7 feet on top of high tide will exacerbate the flooding in low-lying areas.
Read more about the danger of storm surge:
Orlando International Airport will reopen at noon ET on Friday, according to a tweet from the airport.
Earlier Thursday, CNN reported that airport officials did not yet have a reopening timeline.
Jacksonville International Airport also said in a tweet that it will reopen Friday, along with several other of the state's 11 airports.
The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, which was hard hit by Hurricane Ian, will remain closed except to emergency personnel and humanitarian flights, according to a statement.