Satellite images show lightning inside Hurricane Ian 0:41
More than 2.5 million Floridians are under some form of evacuation warning Tuesday as Hurricane Ian approaches the state's west coast and the governor warned that the time to heed the warnings from authorities to get out is "rapidly running out".
Packing 120 mph (193 km/h) winds Tuesday night, the Category 3 storm is threatening the peninsula's west coast with life-threatening storm surge, torrential rain and damaging winds.
And it appears to be getting stronger, with hurricane-force winds extending 40 miles (64 kilometers) away from its center Tuesday night, which could mean more of Florida will be exposed to impacts from the dangerous storm once it hits. landfall in about 24 hours.
"You're going to see impacts all the way up the east coast of Florida," Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday night.
"This thing is real. It's a major, major storm."
Ian will likely make landfall Wednesday night between Sarasota and Port Charlotte as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, meaning sustained winds of at least 130 mph (178 km/h), according to forecasts.
Regardless of its category, a meteorologist warned that it will remain a "major and destructive hurricane" for the state, and urged residents to listen to the advice of local leaders.
"This is going to have many impacts that will be felt throughout the state of Florida," the governor said.
"As the storm moves in, you will potentially have (evacuation) directives issued by people in the interior of our state or even the east coast of the state for low-lying areas that absolutely could be flooded."
"Pay attention to those instructions," he added.
Where and when is Hurricane Ian going to make landfall in Florida?
Ian made landfall in Cuba early Tuesday as a Category 3 hurricane. Cuba's tobacco-rich province of Pinar del Rio lost power because of the storm, according to Cuban state television.
Flood water covered fields and fallen trees lay in front of buildings in San Juan y Martínez, a city in the province, according to images from state-run media outlet Cubadebate.
The hurricane center said there was a chance of up to 400 mm (16 inches) of rain and landslides and flash flooding in western Cuba.
Mayelin Suárez, a resident of the city of Pinar del Río, told Reuters it was the darkest night of her life.
"We almost lost the roof of our house," Suarez told Reuters.
"My daughter, my husband and I tied him up with a rope so he wouldn't fly away."
The storm system heads west to Florida next, where it will produce life-threatening storm surge — that is, when ocean water is pushed onto land — and flooding Wednesday through Thursday morning.
The heartbreaking images after the devastating hurricane Ian passed through Cuba
Authorities warn: leave the coast now.
"Today is really your last day to ... really get out (of) the storm surge warning zone," Michael Brennan, acting deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told CNN this week. Tuesday morning.
More than 1.75 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders across Florida as of Tuesday afternoon.
Most were in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers.
And about 2.5 million Floridians in total were under some form of evacuation order, including voluntary ones, statewide, officials said.
In Pinellas County, where more than 440,000 people are under mandatory evacuation, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard told CNN Tuesday afternoon that it was getting too late for residents to leave.
"If they haven't evacuated yet, if they haven't gotten supplies yet, it's getting too late. They just have to shelter in place and wait out the storm," the mayor said.
State agencies also worked to help prepare and protect senior residents by conducting visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the storm's path.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also issued a state of emergency Tuesday, warning of heavy rain and damaging winds in the state later in the week from the storm.
What are the threats?
The storm threatens to bring several dangers to West-Central Florida:
A storm surge warning, meaning the tide could be life-threatening, is in effect for much of Florida's west coast, from Suwanee in the Big Bend region to the tip of the peninsula in the Everglades.
A warning is also in effect for the extreme northeastern Florida coast, from near the Georgia state line to Marineland, as well as the St. John River.
The worst, 8 to 12 feet (2.4 to 3 meters), is forecast for Florida's west coast from south of Bradenton to Bonita Beach south of Fort Myers, the hurricane center said.
A large storm surge is also possible in areas outside of that area, including Tampa Bay, which could get a storm surge of 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 2.1 meters), the hurricane center said.
Forecasters in South Florida warned that storm surge could damage buildings and sweep many away.
Totals could be 12 to 24 inches (304 to 609 mm) around west-central Florida, including Tampa, through Thursday night, posing numerous flood threats.
That would be two or more months' worth of rain for the area, as the average September brings about 6 inches (152 mm) of rain there.
A hurricane warning, meaning winds of at least 120 km/h (74 mph) are expected, covers about 8 million people in parts of western and central Florida, including an area from the river Anchor north of Tampa to Bonita Beach south of Fort Myers.
"It really is a multi-hazard, multi-day event here across much of the western and central Florida panhandle," Brennan said.
In Cuba, more than a million people live in the three provinces: Pinar del Río, Isla de Juventud and Artemisa that experienced hurricane-force winds.
The last major hurricane, Category 3 or higher, to hit Cuba before Ian was Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Evacuations underway in Florida
The hurricane's threatening approach to Florida triggered preparations across the state, as officials announced school closures and flight cancellations, and the military began moving ships and planes.
Along Florida's west coast, authorities are urging residents to get out of harm's way instead of staying to protect their property.
About 2.5 million Floridians were under some type of evacuation order Tuesday, according to state officials.
“I implore, I urge everyone who is in an evacuation zone that has been asked to evacuate, now is the time.
You must evacuate now.
There will come a time when it will not be safe to travel on the roads,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie warned Tuesday night.
“There will come a time when local public safety officials will not be able to respond to your cry for help.
They may leave you to fend for yourself,” he added.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for parts of the counties in the hurricane warning area that stretches from north of Tampa to the Fort Myers area.
That includes Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties in the Tampa area, Hernando, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, and parts of Lee County.
Emergency shelters have been opened.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has warned of power outages as well as potential fuel shortages.
"Please heed those (evacuation) warnings. You don't need to evacuate to another state. You don't need to go hundreds of miles away. ... The important part is ... evacuate to higher ground than it's going to be safe from the kind of storm surge and flooding that we're fearing," DeSantis said Tuesday.
A man walks through the streets of Havana this Tuesday, during Hurricane Ian.
Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images
The Tampa International Airport was scheduled to suspend operations at 5 p.m. this Tuesday;
Orlando International Airport was scheduled to do the same at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Across the state, residents lined up in long lines Monday to fill sandbags or pick up bottled water in preparation for the storm's arrival.
Resident Khadijah Jones told CNN she stood in line for three hours Monday to get free sandbags in Tampa, not knowing if her home would be flooded.
"I'm just doing the basics ... securing loose materials in the yard, sandbags in low-lying areas, and getting items to prepare for power outages," she said.
As the storm approaches, numerous closures and cancellations have been announced.
HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg announced that it has suspended services and transferred patients.
A utility pole lies in the street in Consolacion del Sur, Cuba, on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian passes through.
Credit: Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images
Colleges and universities across the state, including Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach and the University of South Florida in Tampa, are taking steps to prepare, including evacuating campuses or moving classes online.
In elementary schools, at least 26 school districts had announced closures as of Tuesday morning.
What's happening to Florida's theme parks and cruise ships as Ian approaches?
Disney World announced the temporary closure of some resorts from Wednesday through Friday due to weather conditions.
At least three cruise lines also began diverting passengers due to the hurricane.
Kenny King and Jon Walker board up the windows of Tides Seafood Market & Provisions Tuesday in Safety Harbor, Fla.
Credit: Angelica Edwards/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Press Wire
Aid begins to arrive in Florida
While residents are being urged to get out, officials are preparing people and equipment to respond quickly as the recovery begins.
More than 28,000 utility workers are prepared across Florida to restore power service, DeSantis said Tuesday.
The Florida National Guard has 3,200 active-duty soldiers in the state to help with hurricane response efforts, and another 1,800 soldiers on standby can be activated if needed, a Pentagon spokesman and brigadier general said Tuesday. Air Force Pat Ryder.
"These guards will provide route clearance, search and rescue, flood control support teams and security," Ryder said.
Another 2,000 National Guard troops were activated from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, DeSantis said.
President Joe Biden on Saturday approved a disaster declaration for Ian.
"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts intended to alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency in the local population," the White House said in a press release.
The Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, declared a public health emergency for the state of Florida, a measure intended to give health service providers greater flexibility to meet the needs of emergency health, his office said.
"We will do everything we can to help Florida authorities respond to the health impacts of Hurricane Ian," Becerra said.
"We are working closely with state, local and tribal health authorities, as well as our federal partners, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support."