Despite leaving Florida as a tropical storm, Ian could regain hurricane status once it crosses the Atlantic Ocean. From Florida to North Carolina, forecasters are warning of a dangerous storm surge.
“Some slight re-intensification is forecast, and Ian could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said early Thursday.
Residents and emergency crews on the western side of the Florida peninsula are taking stock of the damages caused by Ian’s massive storm surge and high winds.
“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic flash and urban flooding, with major to record flooding along rivers, will continue across central Florida,” the hurricane center said.
As of 8 a.m. ET, Tropical Storm Ian’s center was about 40 miles east of Orlando, Fla.
Ian’s winds are about 10 mph shy of hurricane strength
Currently, Ian is experiencing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, with gusts as high as 70 mph (hurricane-strength winds begin at 74 mph). Water poses the main threat as in western Florida: Ian will bring a storm surge, and it’s heading northeast at only 8 mph, which heightens the risk of flooding.
Tropical storm-force winds are expected up to 415 miles from Ian’s center, causing flooding and high winds across a wide area.
From below Jacksonville, Fla., up past Charleston, S.C., a hurricane watch is in effect along the coastline from Florida and Georgia into South Carolina.
A life-threatening storm surge of up to 6 feet is expected in that same area.
Currently, Ian is forecast to move northeast over the ocean as it passes Jacksonville, and then turn northwest to make landfall between Savannah, Ga., and Charleston.
Tropical-storm-force winds will start affecting Georgia and South Carolina Thursday, the NHC said. Ian will make landfall on Friday as a strong tropical storm or hurricane, according to the National Weather Service office in Charleston.
The “1st round of coastal flooding” is expected to hit South Carolina with Thursday afternoon’s high tide, the NWS office in Charleston reported. Additional flooding will likely continue through Friday, it warned.