Hurricane Ian is so powerful that its winds were just a few miles per hour shy of becoming a Category 5 storm as it made landfall in Florida on Wednesday. And it didn’t take long for it to unleash its wrath on Florida’s power grids.
Ian’s eye began moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva islands by midday on Wednesday. Before 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 660,000 people had their power knocked out, according to tracking on poweroutage.us. Just two hours later, the total surpassed 1 million outages. Now, as the sun has set, the number has surged once again – bringing the total number of those without power as of 7 p.m. to more than 1.5 million people.
Southwest Florida has so far borne the brunt of the impact. Nearly every resident in several counties, including DeSoto, Charlotte and Lee, is without power as of Wednesday evening. At least half of all residents in several other neighboring counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Collier and Glades, are without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Reports of outages continue to extend north along the Gulf Coast, with major disruptions going as far north as Citrus County. Smaller disruptions continue to creep towards the panhandle.
Areas along Florida’s eastern coast are also seeing outages, with more than 19,700 reported in Miami-Dade, although that number had declined in the hours leading up to 7 p.m. Outages are also being seen more inland and have been detected in every single county on the state’s east coast.
Florida officials have been warning for days of the potential power issues. Ian has been relentless on its track, knocking out power to all of Cuba when it raked the island on Tuesday, although some areas have since been restored.
The National Weather Service warned prior to landfall that Hurricane Ian would cause “catastrophic” wind damage in Florida’s southwest. The service’s director, Ken Graham, said during a press briefing on Wednesday that the storm will take 24 hours to complete its journey across the state after the eye made landfall.
“This is going to be a storm that we talk about for many years to come,” he said.
Florida Power & Light, the main provider of the homes reporting outages, tweeted on Wednesday that the company is expecting “widespread, extend” outages. Of its more than 5.7 million tracked customers through PowerOutage.us, more than 1 million have reportedly lost power.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Wednesday that there are more than 30,000 linemen “staged and ready” to help restore power when it is safe to do so. Gov Ron DeSantis said later in the day that number has increased to 42,000.