Florida bracing for Hurricane Ian to ‘barrel across state’


As a mighty hurricane hits the land in southwest Florida, American weather authorities are warning residents it is too late to leave and they must now brace for catastrophic conditions.

Hurricane Ian has begun lashing Florida’s Gulf Coast with powerful winds and drenching rain.

More than 470,000 homes are without power and in one area city officials have even enforced a curfew to make sure no one is out in public when the storm hits.

President Joe Biden will travel to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington DC on Thursday to be briefed on the unfolding emergency.

The intensity of the weather system was evident in photographs taken by Nick Underwood, a storm-chaser who flew a plane close to Ian’s eye.

“You can see the curvature. Understand this is at NIGHT. The light is from LIGHTNING,” Mr Underwood tweeted.

He added that it was the “worst” flight he had ever been on.

“I’ve never seen so much lightning in an eye,” Mr Underwood said.

Forecasters warned Ian would unleash wind-driven high surf, torrential rains that may cause coastal flooding of up to 3.7 metres along with intense thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

“I wish this wasn’t a forecast that was about to come true. This is a storm that we will talk about for many years to come, an historic event,” Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke about the US government’s preparation. Photo: Getty

The region is home to kilometres of sandy beaches, scores of resort hotels and numerous mobile home parks, a favourite with retirees and holiday-makers alike.

“This is a powerful storm that should be treated like a tornado was approaching your home,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.

“This is going to be a nasty, nasty day or two days. This is going to be a rough stretch.”

Earlier this week, authorities told more than 2.5 million residents to leave.

Florida Gulf Coast residents emptied grocery shelves, boarded up windows and fled to evacuation shelters.

Ian pummelled Cuba on Tuesday and left the entire Caribbean island nation without power.

-with AAP

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