After killing “hundreds” in Florida, Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a tropical storm — but still poses a life-threatening danger to several states as it is cuts a devastating path over the South East over the next few days.
The monster cyclone made landfall with 150mph winds on Wednesday at Cayo Costa near Fort Myers and Cape Coral in Southwest Florida, making it the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to strike the U.S. before weakening as it passed over the mainland overnight.
Although the storm slowed to 70mph, The National Hurricane Center reported it had re-emerged on Florida’s east coast at 11am thursday morning, and was gaining strength again.
Central and Northeast Florida were not in the clear and expected to be battered by up to eight inches of rainfall throughout the day, Fox Weather warned.
Ian could potentially regain strength and again become a “category 1 hurricane,” Fox Weather’s Geoff Bansen told The Post, predicting it would “at least become a stronger tropical storm” than it is currently.
After a brief respite offshore, Ian is “expected to make a third landfall sometime late tomorrow, probably tomorrow night,” Bansen said of the hurricane that first devastated Cuba.
It is expected to hit “somewhere between Savannah and the Charleston area,” the Fox Weather expert noted of the major cities in Georgia and South Carolina. Both states were already put in states of emergency.
The National Hurricane Center also warned that “hurricane conditions are possible through Friday” in the same three states.
“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flooding, with major to record flooding, will continue today …. through the end of the week,” the center stressed.
Current forecasts predict that Ian will “weaken quickly” after that third landfall, however, “and global models indicate it should dissipate” by the weekend, the center said.
However, it will still bring rainfall up to the Northeast, including New York, through the weekend, Bansen said.
Still, “it’s not going to be nearly at the level of Ida last year,” he said, referring to the devastating flooding across the region that killed 13 New Yorkers.
Florida has previously been hit by three of the four Category 5 hurricanes that have made landfall in the United States: the Labor Day hurricane in 1935, Andrew in 1992 and Michael in 2018, the Miami Herald noted.
However, its gigantic spread and heavy rain will likely make it the worst-ever hurricane to hit the region “in terms of impact,” Craig Fugate, the former director of the Florida Emergency Management Division, told local NPR station WGCU.
“It was what we were afraid of … This is a record-setting event,” he said.
“This is massive compared to Charley,” he said, referring to the category 4 storm that killed five in southwest Florida in 2004.
“You can put Charley inside of the eyewall of hurricane Ian,” he said, noting that even Hurricane Irma — the Category 5 storm from 2017 — “didn’t produce this kind of storm surge because there wasn’t a very well formed eye.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that parts of his Sunshine State had been devastated by a “500-year flood event” — which that “changed the character of a significant part of our state.”