Hurricane Ian Wednesday updates: Many in Volusia County without … – Daytona Beach News-Journal

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The Daytona Beach News-Journal has made this article free of charge for all readers in the interest of public safety. Consider supporting the News-Journal with a digital subscription.
Hurricane Ian’s outer bands have begun whipping southeast Florida with Category 4-force winds and calamitous amounts of rain as forecasters say it’s on a path across the peninsula toward Volusia County.  Throughout Wednesday night, the News-Journal will post updates here, so check back for the latest from East Central Florida.
Florida Power & Light is reporting 18,830 customers without power in Volusia County, 2,390 in Flagler County, and 1,150 in St. Johns County.
FPL’s website shows 13,170 customers in Volusia County have had their power restored. FPL has a total of 190,020 customers in Volusia County.
In Flagler County, 830 FPL customers have had their power restored. FPL has a total of 66,910 customers in Flagler County.
So far 2,230 of FPL’s 107,290 St. Johns County customers have had their power restored.
Search by county here to check on Hurricane Ian power outages in Volusia and Flagler counties:Florida Power & Light customer outages
Volusia County remains under a hurricane warning, flood warning and tornado watch. Most Volusia County bridges have closed. There is still a high risk for tornado activity, extreme flooding and power outages.
Tonight Volusia County deputies and paramedics headed out in high-water rescue and Bearcat vehicles ready to assist people in flooded areas that are inaccessible to other types of vehicles.
By the time Hurricane Ian leaves Volusia County, rainfall totals are expected to reach 15-20 inches, with some areas receiving as much as 30 inches. The worst impacts from the storm locally are expected to begin around 2 a.m., and last at least 12 hours.
All of the following bridges are closed until further notice: International Speedway Bridge; Main Street Bridge; Orange Avenue Bridge; Seabreeze Bridge; Dunlawton Bridge; north and south causeways in New Smyrna Beach and Barracuda Bridge.
In Ormond Beach, the Granada Bridge remains open because the weather conditions within the city of Ormond Beach do not currently meet the requirements for a closure. The city will continue to monitor the winds and will issue an update should the need arise.
There are currently 20,170 customers without power in Volusia County: 
To report power outages please contact your electric provider:
FPL: www.fpl.com, 800-468-8243
Duke Energy: www.duke-energy.com, 800-228-8485
New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission: www.ucnsb.org, 386-427-1366
Clay Electric: www.clayelectric.com, 888-434-9844
Due to weather conditions, Votran will not be providing bus services Thursday. Services might reopen Friday if weather conditions permit. Riders should check www.votran.org for updates. 
Check here for the latest on power outages in your area:Florida Power & Light outages
On its website Wednesday night, Florida Power & Light was reporting 11,020 power outages in Volusia County so far. FPL is reporting 210 customers without power in Flagler County, 7,510 in Brevard County, and 810 in St. Johns County.
FPL says it’s restoring power in between weather bands as conditions allow.
Daytona Beach remains under a hurricane warning and tornado watch with rain expected to continue overnight. Residents are reminded to stay safe if their area floods. Also, residents should not venture outdoors after the storm has passed until public officials have advised that it is safe.
To stay safe in flooded areas, don’t walk through moving water. As little as six inches of moving floodwater can knock you off your feet.
Don’t touch electrical equipment if you’re wet or standing in water.
If you have to walk through water, look for an area where the water isn’t moving. Use a stick to check the depth of the water and the firmness of the ground in front of you.
Don’t drive into floodwater. If water rises around your car, if you can do so safely, get out, leave the vehicle and quickly move to higher ground.
As the rain started falling from the bands of Hurricane Ian, shelter teams at Rymfire Elementary and Bunnell Elementary Schools were ready to begin accepting evacuees from the storm. It was the culmination of quick work made by many departments across Flagler County.
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt toured both facilities Wednesday morning and afternoon to ensure those working the shelters were ready to open and to check in the first couple of hours of intake.
“If people need to find a shelter of last resort, we are prepared to take them in for as long as needed,” Superintendent Mittlestadt said following her afternoon check. “Hopefully this storm blows through quickly so these folks can get back to their homes.”
Rymfire Elementary is serving as a shelter for those with special medical needs. It is being run in coordination with the Flagler County Health Department. Bunnell Elementary is the shelter for the general population. Additionally, the Flagler County Humane Society has set up a pet shelter on the campus as well.
Both shelters opened their doors at 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, following an evacuation order from Flagler County. There was an orderly but small stream of people seeking space at both shelters during the first couple of hours.
“Our teams were ready to go in less than 24 hours,” Mittlestadt said. “They rolled it out and executed it flawlessly, and now we’re here, buttoned in and helping as needed.”
If anyone has questions about shelters or anything hurricane-related, they are asked to call the Flagler County Help Line at 386-313-4200. That line is open 24 hours a day during this storm. 
Flagler County Emergency Management stated in a tweet that Ian would bring a risk of tropical storm force winds of 50 mph or more to the county, but Category 1 force winds of 74 mph or greater could not be ruled out.  
The winds will start picking up tonight, said Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord. 
In the next 36 hours, Flagler County could see up to 15 inches of rain, and even 20 inches of rain in some spots, Lord said. 
He said wind and water were both significant. 
“They are both huge concerns but that amount of water, that rain is a significant concern. That’s a lot of rain in a short period of time for us,” Lord said. 
Lord said the county has two shelters open and a curfew in place. 
“We just really want our residents, if you’re in the areas being evacuated, we hope that you’re already out of that area to a place of safety,” Lord said. “And everybody else, we hope you just hunker down at home, and this isn’t going to be great for our community, but we will band together and we will take care of what we need to take care of.”
Curfews are in place for both Volusia and Flagler counties starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday and continuing through 7 Thursday morning.
Flagler County government posted on social media its curfews will continue until further notice, while Volusia has announced them for overnight Wednesday and Thursday.
What does that mean?  
All people should stay off roadways during those hours unless they are: people going to and from work, law enforcement personnel; federal, state, and local firefighting, emergency medical and emergency management personnel; county employees detailed to work on the emergency, Salvation Army and Red Cross personnel and volunteers; National Guard personnel; electric utility personnel; water and wastewater utility personnel; communications utility personnel; and individuals involved in medical emergencies.
Violations are a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine per offense and by a term of up to 60 days imprisonment, in accordance with Florida Statutes Section 252.50.
“This is about protecting human life and property,” Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord said. “We will lift it as soon as possible, but there are a lot of unknowns with this storm.”
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said the curfew is in place for the public’s safety.
“It’s more dangerous at night, people can’t see flooded roads. Trees can come down with all this wetness and loosening of the soil.”
Staly said he also wants people who have evacuated to not have to worry about their property.
“We want people to feel that their businesses are safe, that they’ve closed up and that their homes that they’ve evacuated from will be safe,” Staly said.
He said initial violators would be informed about the curfew. 
“We want to educate them is our preference, letting them know that the curfews in effect.” 
But repeat violators could be arrested. 
“Now, if we have repeat offenders, technically it’s a second-degree misdemeanor,” Staly said. 
The Flagler Executive Airport is playing a big part in the response to Hurricane Ian.
Airport Manager Roy Sieger said in a phone interview that up to 400 Florida Power & Light trucks are expected to arrive overnight as the airport serves as a staging area for the electrical workers.  Vegetation trucks from tree trimmers are also staging at the airport. 
So far, five charter buses which can hold a total of 300 passengers are also at the airport, he said. Those buses will take the crews from the electrical and vegetation trucks some place to rest and return them when it’s time for them to get on their trucks and head to where they are needed, Sieger said. 
Kimbles Aviation Logistical Services has also staged fuel trucks at the Flagler Executive Airport, Sieger said. He said the company has a contract with the state to supply fuel to law enforcement, Homeland Security, the National Guard and other agencies all over the state. While Kimbles can supply aviation fuel, their job now is to provide diesel fuel and gas to state agencies, Seiger said.  
“I must have a hundred refueling trucks fueled up and ready to go,” Sieger said.
— Frank Fernandez 
With Hurricane Ian’s outer bands delivering rain to Volusia County, a portion of Fleming Avenue, a thoroughfare in Ormond Beach, has been closed due to flooding in a low-lying area.
The city posted on its social media channels it has put a pump and hose in place “to help with flooding in the area.”
The road will be closed to local traffic and motorists are urged to use Aaron Circle as a detour.
Volusia County officials urged residents Wednesday to understand they are under a hurricane warning and a flood watch, with a high risk of tornadoes during Hurricane Ian.
During their afternoon press conference and again in a news release, they shared this message: 
“If you haven’t already done so, take one quick, final look around your property. Be sure to take in anything — furniture, tools, flowerpots, wind chimes, yard debris — that could become airborne in high winds and cause damage or injury.”
In high winds, those items can become missiles headed toward your property or your neighbors.
Garbage collection in Palm Coast has been cancelled for Thursday and Friday, according to an email from the city. Garbage collection will resume next week weather permitting. All Palm Coast city facilities, including parks and trails, are closed through Friday. The city’s customer service is operating on a 24-hour basis until the storm passes. The customer service number is 386-986-2360. Residents can also submit a request through Palm Coast Connect.
— Frank Fernandez
The 3 p.m. Volusia County news conference included updates on several key areas of concern as Hurricane Ian barrels its way toward the area, promising wind and flood damage.
There’s plenty of room available at the four Volusia County emergency shelters, said Earl Johnson, chief operating officer of Volusia County Schools. As of 2 p.m., there were 159 people in shelters, with room for a total of 1,119.
He urged people who are shelter-bound to do so quickly, before roads are no longer safe.
“We’re not going to lock anyone out,” he said. “If you’re planning to shelter with us and you’re not already there, you should act to get to one of our shelters as soon as possible.” 
Andy Ethridge, the county’s Beach Safety director, said the Atlantic Ocean is seeing 3- to 5-foot waves.
“Now is not the time to go surfing,” Ethridge said. “Please stay out of the water. Don’t put our rescue personnel in danger.” 
Officials reiterated that roadways are becoming dangerous and potentially deadly. 
“You can’t go food shopping,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “Walmart’s closed. Publix is closed. Restaurants are closed.”
Chitwood warned that people tempted to burglarize businesses during the storm should be aware that law enforcement agencies are fully staffed and penalties for crimes during emergencies are enhanced. 
At 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, two Votran buses picked up 70 homeless people on North Street in Daytona Beach and transported them to the Volusia County fairgrounds to shelter in a building there while Hurricane Ian blows through the area.
A third bus took a group of homeless people from New Smyrna Beach to the fairgrounds to shelter through the storm.
At First Step Shelter on Daytona Beach’s western edge, the shelter for homeless adults has 70 people riding out the storm.
First Step has sandbags around doors to keep the rain out and has stocked up on extra drinking water. Some employees have volunteered to stay at the shelter throughout the storm.
The shelter stopped taking new intakes on Tuesday, and will resume normal operations after Ian passes.
— Eileen Zaffiro-Kean
Ahead of a 3 p.m. news conference (watch here), Volusia County officials are saying widespread flooding from major rainfall is of great concern.
Volusia County is under a flood watch, according to a Volusia County news release. Officials are urging people to pay attention to the weather and prepare for extreme conditions,  
Through Thursday, rainfall could total 12-18 inches across the county and up to 24 inches in isolated areas. Also, tides could be 1-3 feet higher than normal on Wednesday and Thursday. 
Astor has already reached minor flood stage and is expected to reach moderate flood stage Wednesday or Thursday, according to the county.  
Residents of Lake Harney Woods, Stone Island, Astor and surrounding areas should closely watch weather updates and prepare, according to the release.  
“These areas normally flood during periods of excessive rainfall. Residents may want to find accommodations with family or friends, in a hotel, or in a public shelter as a last resort. Residents are advised that rising waters may hinder emergency response,” according to the county.  
Flooding is typically the most dangerous impact from a hurricane, the release said.  
Volusia County officials issued the following storm tips: 
Planning: 
— Sheldon Gardner
Events at the Daytona Beach Bandshell have been canceled through the weekend due to Hurricane Ian. This includes the Lovingkindness “Raise the Praise for Jesus” show Saturday.
To stay up to date with events at the Bandshell, visit its website.
As the first effects of Hurricane Ian hit Volusia and Flagler counties on Wednesday, hurricane shelters opened throughout the area for residents seeking safety from the massive storm. 
At Galaxy Middle School in Deltona, site of one of Volusia County’s special needs shelters, Deltona resident Karen Owens blinked away tears of relief after arriving with her 97-year-old mother, Jean Deanna Kay.  
“This is beautiful,” Owens said. “They helped us check in; they have beautiful cots; they have food; they have friendly faces. I never expected this; it’s wonderful.” 
Owens, who has lived in Deltona for nearly 40 years, is fearful about the prospect that high winds and heavy rains might topple the tall oak trees that surround the home she shares with her mother. 
“They just said on TV that it’s the fifth largest storm to ever enter the United States,” she said. “I wanted to get here now rather than waiting until it’s getting worse.” 
Volusia County opened four shelters at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.  
In addition to the special needs shelter at Galaxy Middle, at 2400 Eustace Ave. in Deltona, the list includes two sites serving the general population: 
An additional special needs shelter is open at Atlantic High School on Reed Canal Road in Port Orange. 
All four shelters will accept pets. Those staying at a shelter with their pets must bring necessary items and supplies. 
Jim Judge, the county’s interim director of emergency management, said people who want to stay at a shelter should arrive early before conditions are expected to worsen on Wednesday. 
While many restaurants are not open or closing early Wednesday to prepare for Hurricane Ian, one popular Port Orange eatery on the Halifax River has extra reason to be concerned.
Aunt Catfish’s On the River in Port Orange was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2017. 
Brendan Galbreath, owner of Aunt Catfish’s, is staying hopeful during Hurricane Ian. The restaurant at 4009 Halifax Drive is closed through Thursday. Loose items outside have been picked up, heavy top tables have been flipped over, and most importantly, the boats have been removed from the dock.
“(The boats) have always been our issue,”  Galbreath explained. “If the boats remain it beats up our dock.”
Galbreath stays optimistic that the only damage will be a few roof leaks since the building is old. Aunt Catfish’s has been open since 1979 and has endured flooding, roof removal and dock destruction.
— Caroline Hebert
Security First Insurance is an Ormond Beach-based provider of homeowners insurance that has 169,000 policyholders in Florida including several thousand in Volusia and Flagler counties. Its four-story headquarters can be seen by motorists traveling north on Interstate 95, right before the exit to Destination Daytona.
“We’re just working away over here – making sure we have the resources lined up to respond to our customers,” said company President Melissa Burt DeVriese on Wednesday. The nearly 400 workers who are based at Security First’s headquarters will be working from home on Thursday when Hurricane Ian is expected to sweep through Volusia County, but will be back in the office on Friday, ready to assist policyholders through the weekend. The company also has a call center in Texas that will remain fully staffed on Thursday.
“We feel very prepared,” she said.
“Here in Volusia County, I’d be more concerned about the rain than the wind,” DeVriese added. “My personal concern here is about flooding. Where’s all that water going to go?”
Security First does not offer flood insurance.
— Clayton Park
Florida’s largest gas station, the 104-pump Buc-ee’s in Daytona Beach is closing at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, earlier than previously planned, because of growing concerns over the impending arrival of Hurricane Ian.
Publix closed its stores in Florida at noon today, also earlier than planned.
Launch Credit Union, which has branches in Brevard and Volusia counties, announced it is closing all locations at 2 p.m. today and that they will remain closed Thursday as well. “Members who are in need of cash may use our branch ATMs or any Publix Presto! (ATMs) at no charge,” the credit union stated in a news release. “We will continue to keep members notified via the Launch website at launchcu.com, emails and on social media.”
— Clayton Park 
Volusia County officials said in a news release Wednesday afternoon that all bridges will close to vehicles when sustained wind speeds reach 39 mph, including the Main Street and Highbridge drawbridges. After 5 p.m. today, those two bridges won’t open for marine traffic until the storm passes. 
— Sheldon Gardner
Gov. Ron DeSantis closed his 1 p.m. news conference by commenting on how every time he gets more information about Hurricane Ian, it’s bad news.
“It gets stronger. It gets larger,” he said. “We really appreciate people’s concern for Florida. We appreciate the prayers.”
DeSantis said Ian will be the “Big One” for many Floridians.
“It will be one of the storms people will remember in Southwest Florida,” he said. 
.Gov. Ron DeSantis, at a news conference this afternoon, advised residents that “not every power outage is going to be created equal across the state.”
He warned electricity infrastructure is in line to be damaged by wind and storm surge and reconnection efforts will vary depending on the nature of the outage.
Asked about those people who were advised to evacuate but chose to remain in place, DeSantis said it was voluntary.
“Local officials are not going to grab ’em by the shirt collar and drag ’em out of the house,” DeSantis said. He promised rescues will begin ASAP.
A countywide curfew will be in effect from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday and between the same hours Thursday into Friday. The Volusia County Council put the curfew in place to keep people safe and to give space to electric company officials and first responders to do their jobs, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.   
“We don’t need you out there at the height of the storm being a sightseer and snapping selfies,” he said. 
Violating the curfew could cost someone up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.  
The curfew doesn’t apply to law enforcement, emergency workers or people traveling for work at a business, industry or government entity, according to the county.
— Sheldon Gardner  
Officials with Daytona Beach Shores on Wednesday reminded residents that once wind speeds reach a sustained 39 mph, all bridges crossing the Halifax River will be closed. Current projections say whose wind speeds could be reached by Wednesday afternoon or evening. Bridges will be reopened following inspections by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Also in Daytona Beach Shores, the Publix at 3044 S. Atlantic Ave. and the Walgreens at 3004 S. Atlantic Ave. are closed until further notice.
— Dave Wersinger 
Votran, Volusia County’s public transportation system, will suspend service Thursday and will reopen Friday if weather allows, according to a county news release. Votran could suspend operations today if sustained winds reach 39 mph. For updates people can go to Votran’s website.  
Also, Daytona Beach International Airport’s terminal building and airfield will close at 12:35 p.m. today, and all future flights have been canceled until further notice, Volusia County officials announced. The county is encouraging people to check with their airlines for flight updates.
— Sheldon Gardner  
The National Weather Service has issued a Hurricane Warning for part of Volusia County.
The message, sent to cell phones, warns of “dangerous and damaging winds,” and recommends residents “urgently complete efforts to protect life and property. Have food, water, cash, fuel and medications for 3+ days.” 
Also, Volusia County has declared a state of emergency, giving officials powers and access to additional resources. The county has imposed a curfew starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. Thursday. For more, see Sheldon Gardner’s story
With Hurricane Ian arriving at Florida’s Gulf Coast, we are preparing in Volusia and Flagler counties but also keeping an eye on our neighbors. Our thoughts meander to the estimated 2.5 million Floridians who’ve already been evacuated and all others who are either hunkering down at home or voluntarily leaving.
The USA TODAY Network has reporters across Florida delivering the stories of the storm. 
Here are a few worth checking out: 
Naples Daily News:Hurricane Ian: What our reporters are seeing from where they are
Sarasota Herald-Tribune:Near-Category 5 Hurricane Ian’s eyewall starts to move onshore with 155 mph winds
Fort Myers News-Press:Where is Jim Cantore? Weather Channel meteorologist spotted in Punta Gorda
While Hurricane Ian has an eerily similar path to a previous devastating storm from Florida’s past, Charley in 2004, there are key differences between the storms, writes C.A. Bridges. For one, their speed. 
Charley was plowing over Florida at a 21-25 mph clip, while Ian has slowed to 9 mph. 
“That means Ian will have more time to crawl across the state, more time for wind, rain and flooding, more time to generate tornadoes, and more time to cause devastation to infrastructure, power lines and homes,” Bridges writes in a story comparing the two. Check it out here
AdventHealth hospitals across Central Florida, including in Volusia and Flagler counties, are girding for Hurricane Ian, according to a news release.   
“The health system has stockpiled thousands of gallons of water and generators are standing by to run the hospital on emergency power if necessary. Sandbags are prepared should they be needed to secure doors and windows,” the release states.
The release advises that hospitals are not public shelters, and those seeking shelter can use one of the six county-run shelters in Volusia and Flagler counties. 
“The safety of our patients, visitors and team members is of the utmost importance,” said Dr. Neil Finkler, Chief Clinical Officer of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division. “Our patients can rest assured that the hospital is a safe place, that we are fully staffed and will continue to deliver our advanced level of care throughout Hurricane Ian. All of our hospitals and freestanding ERs are open for our community’s emergent health needs.”
The fall 2022 ECHO grant cycle workshop that had been scheduled for Thursday has been rescheduled to 9 a.m. Oct. 6. The workshop is mandatory for prospective applicants. For information about the grants, people can go to the county’s ECHO web page.
— Sheldon Gardner
Volusia County officials have issued an advisory on drinking water, tips for before and after Hurricane Ian bowls over the Florida peninsula on Wednesday and Thursday.
Tips for before the storm’s arrival:
Suggestions for after the storm:
When dealing with private water wells:
Daytona Beach City Hall, community centers and facilities will be closing at 2 p.m. Wednesday due to Hurricane Ian and will not reopen until Monday, the city announced.
City emergency and public safety staff will continue to monitor the track of the storm and provide essential services. The city’s emergency operations center has been activated. To get Daytona Beach emergency notifications, go to the city’s website.
American Airlines has canceled all flights for Wednesday and the 6 a.m. departure on Thursday at the Daytona Beach International Airport. 
The airport is open, but Volusia County officials are encouraging people to check with airlines about their flights. 
The airport is not a shelter. For a shelter list and other hurricane information, people can go to volusia.org/PIN
— Sheldon Gardner
Josh Wadler, assistant professor of meteorology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is doing the opposite of hunkering down on Wednesday.
He’s flying into the eye of Hurricane Ian aboard NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft, all in the name of science. For more, read my story
Volusia County officials have canceled several meetings because of Hurricane Ian: the Volusia Growth Management Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, the Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday, the Cultural Council of Volusia County meeting scheduled for Friday and the Become a Climate Smart Floridian meeting scheduled for Saturday.]
— Sheldon Gardner
Volusia County has called a 3 p.m. news conference Wednesday, when officials will discuss Ian’s expected effects on Volusia County, countywide preparations that are underway, safety information for residents during the storm, possible flooding impacts and the county’s emergency response.
The news conference will be broadcast live on the Volusia County Emergency Management Facebook page and the county’s YouTube channel.
Volusia County Schools announced schools — which were already canceled for Wednesday and Thursday — will remain closed Friday. “This will allow our schools to remain as shelters throughout the storm event,” the announcement reads.
Also, Daytona State College announced classes will be canceled on Friday, as well. 
Flagler County has ordered evacuations effective 1 p.m. Wednesday, according to a press release from the county’s public information officer, Julie Murphy. 
Evacuations are ordered for the following areas in Flagler County. 
Bunnell Elementary School at 305 N. Palmetto Street, Bunnell, is the shelter for general population and pets. A maximum of four pets will be allowed per family. Permissible pets are dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, rodents and turtles. No snakes, reptiles or farm animals will be permitted. 
Rymfire Elementary School, 1425 Rymfire Drive, Palm Coast, is the shelter for special needs. A caregiver should remain at the shelter with the individual. The shelters provide only limited medical care. 
Residents are encouraged to arrive to the shelters by 4 p.m. Wednesday and to bring their own bedding. Single and twin-size inflatable mattresses are preferred due to the space limits. 
Residents should bring a five-day supply of medications, medical supplies and equipment, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, extra charges and batteries for devices and important documents, including identification, insurance and medical history. 
Meals will be served but residents should bring “comfort foods” and snacks, the release stated. 
No weapons, alcohol or illegal narcotics will be allowed. 
“We urge those who are going to stay with relatives, friends or at hotels to complete their evacuation by noon,” said Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord. “This will clear that traffic by 1 p.m. when those who are going to shelters need to leave. They will open at 1 p.m.”
—Frank Fernandez 
More quotes from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference: “I think one thing for Central Florida, because we’ve had a lot of saturation, trees are gonna come down, even with tropical storm-force winds. It does not need to be hurricane-force. You are absolutely going to see that.
“That is going to cause interruptions in power and of course the sheer amount of rain that’s gonna come down. That’s going to have a major impact across the center portion of the state and even with the projected exit of the state in Volusia County, because of what it’s going to do in the Atlantic you’re going to see impacts all the way up to Nassau County and Duval County.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced at a press conference the storm’s maximum sustained winds have reached 155 mph, “and that is knocking on the door of a Category 5 storm,” as it moved at 10 mph toward Charlotte County.
“We expect landfall in southwest Florida later today as a major hurricane and will slowly move across the central Florida peninsula before exiting the northeast Florida coast probably sometime on Thursday,” DeSantis said. 
About 2.5 million people along Florida’s Gulf Coast had been under evacuation orders in advance of the storm. Collier, Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties are considered at highest risk of winds, storm surge and flooding, officials said. 
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