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Hurricane Ian makes landfall near Sanibel, Captiva Islands, Florida

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Hurricane Ian made landfall over the west coast of Florida as a category 4 storm on Wednesday afternoon, in response to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm knocked out power to at the least 1.8 million people in Florida, in response to the Associated Press.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded the storm to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph at 8 p.m., with its center situated at about 95 miles southwest of Orlando, Orange County.

“We have asked all of our residents to start out the means of sheltering in place,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference. “It’s best to not be out on the roadways presently moving in regards to the community.”

Orlando was under a hurricane warning and the National Weather Service said conditions were expected to “deteriorate tonight.” The agency said “TS to hurricane force winds are expected. The threat of great to catastrophic flooding is predicted to develop tonight.”

“There is not any query that we’re now feeling the results of this hurricane, and we have not seen the worst of it yet,” Demings said.

“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and concrete flooding, with major to record flooding along rivers, is predicted to proceed across central Florida,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update.

Technicians monitor Hurricane Ian contained in the National Response Coordination Center on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters, on September 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. Hurricane Ian, with sustained winds of 155 mph, is approaching Category 5 status because it heads toward Florida’s southwest coast.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The storm initially hit near Cayo Costa, Florida with maximum sustained winds at 150 mph, the middle said on Twitter. It hit Punta Gorda, near Pirate Harbor, just a number of hours later.

Hurricane Ian greatly intensified because it neared land, reaching winds of 155 mph and nearing essentially the most dangerous Category 5 classification Wednesday morning. Hurricane force winds were 35 miles out from the middle and tropical storm force winds were 150 miles from the middle, in response to the National Weather Service.

“That is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days” Gov. Ron DeSantis said early Wednesday in a press conference. Officials in Florida and nationally are closely tracking the storm’s movements.

A down tree lays over the road after being toppled by the winds and rain from Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022 in Sarasota, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Greater than 2.5 million people were under mandatory evacuation orders in Florida, but legally, no residents may be forced to go away their homes. DeSantis said the highest-risk areas within the state range from Collier County as much as Sarasota County, and it isn’t any longer protected for residents in those counties to evacuate.

“Do what it is advisable do to remain protected. In the event you are where that storm is approaching, you are already in hazardous conditions. It will get rather a lot worse in a short time. So please hunker down,” he said.

Rainfall near the storm’s landfall site could top greater than 18 inches, and storm surges could push as much as 18 feet of water over nearly 100 miles of coastline, in response to the National Hurricane Center. The National Weather Service has also issued the highest-possible wind warning for several regions in Florida in anticipation of utmost wind damage from the storm. But meteorologists were most concerned in regards to the flooding.

Hurricane Ian approaches west coast of Florida on Sept. twenty eighth, 2022.

NOAA

“Water. Now we have to speak in regards to the water,” warned National Weather Service Director Ken Graham. “90% of fatalities in these tropical systems comes from the water. It is the storm surge, it is the rain.”

Much of Florida’s west coast is already experiencing significant storm surges, as whipping winds and feet of water have blanketed the streets of cities like Fort Myers. Town wrote on Twitter that it’s experiencing gusts of wind as much as 77 mph and asked residents to “PLEASE stay indoors.” It warned that conditions will proceed to escalate throughout the day.

For residents who can still evacuate, American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern encouraged them to follow the evacuation instructions of their elected officials and convey essential medication, documents and other items like glasses with them.

“Check in your neighbors and please don’t wait out the storm for those who’re being told to evacuate — it’s dangerous,” she said in a Wednesday press briefing.

Gov. DeSantis said the state has 42,000 linemen, 7,000 National Guard troops from Florida and elsewhere and concrete search and rescue teams able to help when the storm is over.

Utility trucks are staged in a rural lot in The Villages of Sumter County, Fla., Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 2022, in preparation for Hurricane Ian.

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The hurricane left all of Cuba without power after it pummeled the island on Tuesday, in response to NBC News. No less than two storm-related deaths were reported in Cuba as of Wednesday.

Because the storm continues to batter the Florida coast, the National Hurricane Center issued latest watches and warnings for parts of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Hurricane Ian is even visible from the International Space Station, with onboard cameras capturing footage of the storm because it looms over Florida.

The view of Hurricane Ian from cameras on the International Space Station, because the orbiting research laboratory passed near the storm around 3 p.m. ET on Sept. 28, 2022.

NASA TV

Even once the storm is over, DeSantis said it will not be completely protected to go outside. He encouraged residents to watch out of fallen powerlines, standing water and fallen trees.

President Joe Biden told Florida residents Wednesday he would support them through the storm “every step of the best way.”

“We’ll be there to make it easier to clean up and rebuild, to assist Florida get moving again,” he said.

Candy Powell, an east Orlando resident, has lived in Florida since 2016 and watched the state face hurricanes like Irma, Dorian and Matthew. She said she appears like there was less time to organize for Hurricane Ian, but she is attempting to stay calm for the sake of her neighbors. 

“I feel a number of individuals who just moved into Florida were really, really stressed,” she told CNBC. “I’m type of attempting to be just like the calming factor. Even going to the shop yesterday, I actually just type of needed to almost get just regular groceries. The shelves were empty. There was hardly any canned stuff left.” 

Powell can tell the storm is picking up, and he or she said she is already noticing rushing winds and heavy rain.

Palm trees blow within the wind from Hurricane Ian on September 28, 2022 in Sarasota, Florida. Ian is hitting the realm as a possible Category 4 hurricane.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Flannery Dziedzic, who lives in Naples, said she has also noticed the winds pick up in her area. She said her power has been entering into and out, and a bit of debris hit her window while she was on the phone with CNBC.

The storm seems greater and more intense than hurricanes she’s handled up to now, she said, but since she is six miles from the coast, she feels “pretty protected.”

“I feel like Floridians are really resilient,” she said.

NBC News contributed to this report

This story is developing, please check back for updates.

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