Hurricane Ian was so powerful that its winds were only a few miles per hour from making it a Category 5 storm when itWednesday. And it didn’t take long for him to unleash his wrath on Florida’s power grids.
Ian’s eye began moving over Sanibel and Captiva islands around noon Wednesday. By 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 660,000 customers had their power cut off, according to tracking on poweroutage.us. Just two hours later, the total exceeded one million failures. After sunset, the number rose again, bringing the total of people without power at 10 p.m. to more than 2 million people. And shortly after 5 a.m., the number of homes and businesses in the dark topped 2.5 million.
Southwest Florida suffered the brunt of the impact. Almost all customers in several counties, including DeSoto, Charlotte and Lee, were without power early Thursday. At least half of all customers in several nearby counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Collier, Highlands and Glades, were without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Outage reports continued to spread north along the Gulf Coast, with major disruptions reaching as far north as Citrus County. Smaller disturbances continued to creep into begging.
Areas along Florida’s east coast were also experiencing outages. Miami-Dade, though hard hit by power outages, saw steady restorations throughout the day. Outages were also seen further inland and were detected in every county on the state’s east coast.
Florida officials have been warning about potential power issues for days. Ian has been relentless on his trail,when he scoured the island on Tuesday, although power had been restored to some areas.
The National Weather Service warned before landfall that Hurricane Ian would cause “catastrophic” wind damage in southwest Florida. Service manager Ken Graham said at a press briefing Wednesday that the storm will take 24 hours to complete its journey across the state after the eye makes landfall.
“It will be a storm that we will talk about for many years,” he said.
Florida Power & Light, the leading supplier to homes and businesses reporting outages, tweeted Wednesday that the company expects “widespread and prolonged outages.” Of its more than 5.7 million customers tracked through PowerOutage.us, more than a million are believed to have lost power.
Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said Wednesday there were more than 30,000 linemen “staged and ready” to help restore power when it’s safe. Governor Ron DeSantis said later that day that number had risen to 42,000.