September 28, 2022 Hurricane Ian updates

By Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Aditi Sangal, Mike Hayes, Maureen Chowdhury, Seán Federico-O'Murchú and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 1:52 a.m. ET, September 29, 2022
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12:02 p.m. ET, September 28, 2022

More Waffle House locations close in Florida

From CNN’s Chuck Johnston

A Waffle House is seen open on Tuesday in Brevard County, Florida.
A Waffle House is seen open on Tuesday in Brevard County, Florida. (Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today/USA Today Network)

Waffle House has closed 21 of its locations in Florida that are in mandatory evacuation zones as of 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to Njeri Boss, the chain's vice president of public relations.

Waffle House has become the unofficial barometer of a storm's intensity.

The chain already announced Tuesday that it had closed 11 locations in mandatory evacuation zones in south Florida.

Ask anyone who lives in one of the 25 states in the US home to the roadside breakfast mecca, and it’s likely they’ve heard of the Waffle House Index. It’s the unofficial measure thought up by a former FEMA official to evaluate how severely a storm hit an area.

Read more here.

11:44 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Manatee County official gets visibly emotional as he warns residents of Hurricane Ian's severity 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts 

 

Manatee County officials will lock down shelters as Hurricane Ian makes its final approach to western Florida. 

In a video message on Facebook, county administrator Scott Hopes said, “If you're heading to a shelter, you need to get there quickly because in less than 30 minutes we're going to be locking down the shelters. … And people will be kept off the roads because it's no longer safe to travel.” 

“The three law enforcement agencies on our islands have already begun their evacuation,” he said. “Two of the law enforcement agencies from two of the cities have already evacuated the island and the third is on its way.” 

“We ordered over 120,000 evacuations yesterday and only have about 3,000 people in our shelters,” Hopes said, getting emotional. “Hopefully you evacuated to a friend's house or another safe location in Florida or in Manatee County because we are about to feel the brunt of a near Category 5 hurricane in our area.” 

“This is only the beginning,” Hopes said. “When 150-mile-an-hour winds with gusts that exceed that rip through our community, it is going to cause extensive damage.”

11:24 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

More than 2,000 flights were canceled Wednesday across the US, data shows

From CNN's Pete Muntean

American Airlines check-in counters are closed at Orlando International Airport on Wednesday.
American Airlines check-in counters are closed at Orlando International Airport on Wednesday. (John Raoux/AP)

As Hurricane Ian is set to make landfall in Florida, more than 2,000 US flights have now been canceled Wednesday, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware.

Another 1,600 flights have already been canceled for Thursday, a two-day total topping 3,600 flights. Airlines are canceling flights in order to ensure their aircraft and crews are in safe locations and customers aren’t stranded as Ian approaches Florida.

Airports in Orlando, Miami and Tampa are seeing the greatest number of cancellations. Tampa International airport is closed, and Orlando International is closed to all but emergency flights. Several other smaller airports in Florida are also closed.

American Airlines, which operates about 250 daily departures out of Miami — its fourth largest hub — has cancelled 583 flights, including mainline and regional service. It has waived change and cancellation fees.

Southwest Airlines tweeted that its employees are “working around the clock to track” Ian. It says the storm “is expected to cause continued disruptions.”

11:21 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Amazon is pausing operations at some facilities as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida

From CNN’s Catherine Thorbecke

Amazon is temporarily pausing operations at some facilities as Hurricane Ian barrels towards Florida, the company confirmed to CNN on Wednesday.

“We’re closely monitoring the path of Hurricane Ian and making adjustments to our operations in order to keep our employees and those delivering for us safe,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha told CNN in a statement. “We’re in regular contact with our employees and delivery partners to ensure everyone is aware of any site closures or unsafe conditions and will continue to make adjustments as needed.”

CNBC previously reported that Amazon had closed sites near Tampa and Orlando, citing notices sent to employees 

There are more than 8,000 full-time and part-time Amazon employees in the Tampa area. Employees scheduled to work will continue to be paid while sites are closed, according to Amazon.

11:17 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

What we know about Hurricane Ian's size and speed

From CNN's Brandon Miller

A satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Ian approaching Florida on Wednesday at 10:41 a.m. ET.
A satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Ian approaching Florida on Wednesday at 10:41 a.m. ET. (NOAA/NASA)

If Hurricane Ian hits at its current intensity or higher, it will be the strongest storm to ever make landfall on the west coast of the Florida Peninsula on record.

Hurricane Ian underwent another bout of rapid Intensification in the past 24 hours, with its top-end winds increasing by 40 mph (from 115 to 155 mph) in about 16 hours.

Hurricanes undergoing rapid intensification in the 24 hours before landfall have been increasingly common in recent years. This was happened with Hurricanes Michael, Ida and Harvey, among others.

What we know about the storm surge: The storm surge in southwest Florida is likely to be like nothing ever seen in the region.

Hurricane Charley, also a Category 4, hit the same area in 2004 and brought a max of 6 to 7 feet of storm surge. This could be at least twice as high.

Storm surge is expected to be higher than Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that brought a 9 to 14 feet surge to the Panhandle in 2018.

Hurricane Ian's size: Ian is a massive hurricane, which will worsen storm surge and spread damage over a larger area. Hurricane-force sustained winds spread over 80 miles across this storm. This is nearly double the size that Hurricane Charley was when it hit the same region (45 miles across).

Tropical-storm-force winds spread also across more than 320 miles, a distance that would reach from Washington, DC, to Cleveland, Ohio.

About Ian's speed: Ian is moving at 10 mph, and it will slow down more after landfall — less than half the speed that Hurricane Charley was moving at 22 mph. This will increase the potential storm surge Ian creates, as well as exposing areas to the intense winds and flooding rains for longer periods of time.

The storm is expected to slow down after landfall, moving at only 6 to 7 mph and taking more than 24 hours to move across Florida.

This could expose areas to hurricane-force winds for eight hours or more, and tropical-storm-force winds for well over 24 hours.

11:19 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Tampa area schools closed until Friday, officials say

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Hillsborough County Schools in the Tampa area will be closed until at least Friday, district officials said in an update Wednesday. 

"County emergency operations officials have activated more than 50 of our schools as storm shelters to house community members who have evacuated the hurricane's path. Emergency officials need our schools as shelters for several days due to the potential of high winds and heavy rain from this hurricane," the district announced in a post on Facebook. 

"For this reason, we will need to close schools through Friday, September 30th, in order to thoroughly clean campuses and we anticipate a return to school on Monday, October 3rd," said district officials. "We hope you and your family are safe and prepared for the impact of Hurricane Ian to our area," according to the post. 

 

11:17 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Tampa airport closed until Thursday, officials say

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Tampa International Airport has extended its closure due to the hurricane.

"TPA remains closed to the public due to #HurricaneIan and there will be no departing flights through Thursday. Please check with your airline for the latest flight information. We will share a reopening date and time when it is determined," the airport said.

11:20 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

"Extremely dangerous eyewall of Ian moving onshore," National Hurricane Center says

In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center says the eyewall of Hurricane Ian is starting to move onshore now.

The storm will cause "catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding" in the areas in its path soon, it added.

National Hurricane Center's acting Deputy Director Michael Brennan explained what will happen next.

"The eyewall of Ian is going to continue to move onshore for the next few hours and you're going to start to see those water levels rise — that big push of gulf water comes up" in places like Charlotte Habor, Punta Gorda, he said. "That's where we is see the 12 to 18 feet of storm surge inundation above ground level — that's three times as tall as I am. That's really an unsurvivable circumstance that’s going to unfold in southwest Florida over the next few hours."

Brennan said water levels are expected to remain elevated through Thursday.

"I would expect water levels to remain elevated all through tonight and into Thursday. In addition to that, you’re going to have several inches of rainfall that will flow in and not have anywhere to drain on the other end. It won't be able to go out in the harbors and into the gulf. So you’re going to have a widespread inundation event here," he told CNN.

11:52 a.m. ET, September 28, 2022

Why water is receding ahead of Hurricane Ian's landfall

Sisters Selena Disbrow, left, Angel Disbrow, right, walk along the shore of Tampa Bay as water is pulled out from the bay by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday.
Sisters Selena Disbrow, left, Angel Disbrow, right, walk along the shore of Tampa Bay as water is pulled out from the bay by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The National Weather Service in Tampa advised residents not to go near the beach even though water appears to be receding.

"The water WILL come back," the weather service said.

Water can recede when strong winds on the left side of the center of the storm push water out away from shore, according to CNN meteorologist Judson Jones.

A man walks through mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
A man walks through mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay on Wednesday. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

Tampa and Brandenton police also tweeted images of water receding.

CNN's Chad Myers explains more here:

Why storm surge is so dangerous: The National Weather Service says almost half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge.

“A storm surge is a rise in water level caused by a strong storm’s wind pushing water on-shore,” according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “The wind literally piles up the ocean water and pushes it on the land.”

People walk along mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay.
People walk along mudflats as the tide recedes from Tampa Bay. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images)