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Hurricane Ian slams southwest Florida with “catastrophic” storm surge

Hurricane Ian is expected to flood some areas of Florida’s west coast with storm surges as high as 18 feet above ground level as it moves across the peninsula after making landfall Wednesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Why it matters: Surge numbers that high — 12 to 18 ft — would be unprecedented for the region and some of the highest on record in the U.S.

  • “Ian battering the Florida peninsula with catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding,” the NHC said in a 5pm ET update.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) warned at a briefing Wednesday evening that there’s going to be damage throughout the entire state: “Overwhelmingly it’s been that surge that’s been the biggest issue and the flooding … as a result,” he said. “In some areas, we think it’s hit 12 feet.”

Driving the news: Hurricane Ian made landfall at 3:05 pm ET near Cayo Costa, Florida with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph as an “extremely dangerous” hurricane,” NHC said.

  • NHC is expecting between 12 to 18 feet of “catastrophic” storm surge somewhere between Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor.
  • Storm surge is expected along almost all of Florida’s west coast, with 8 to 12 ft expected somewhere between Bonita Beach and the small island of Chokoloskee in southern Florida, and 6 to 10 ft from Englewood to Longboat Key.
  • The storm surge will occur along with high winds, heavy rainfall and considerable flooding.

The major storm had already caused over 9 ft of surge in Naples by 1pm ET Wednesday, a new record for the city, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitoring station.

Threat level: Some communities, likely including Naples, will experience the worst of the surge and winds on the backside of the storm’s eyewall.

  • The winds will be onshore and potentially stronger than they were during the storm’s initial approach.

The latest: As of 7pm ET, it was moving northeast at around 8 mph with maximum sustained winds at 125 mph and was located around 25 miles east-northeast of Punta Gorda.

  • It made landfall on the mainland Florida peninsula just south of Punta Gorda near Pirate Harbor around 4:35pm ET, according to the NHC.
  • A National Ocean Service station near Ft. Myers reported a water level greater than 7 ft, per a 7pm EST NHC update.

The big picture: The NHC considers storm surge, or an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, to be the most deadly and destructive aspect of hurricanes.

  • The surge is the result of water being thrust toward the shoreline by the winds moving cyclonically around the storm and can cause “extreme” flooding in coastal areas, especially when it coincides with high tides.

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Axios’ Andrew Freedman contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details.

Read More:Hurricane Ian slams southwest Florida with “catastrophic” storm surge