After bringing heavy rain and strong winds to Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, but danger still remains for residents in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Ian is now a Tropical Storm, downgraded from the Category 4 Hurricane designation that it had when it hit Florida on Wednesday. As of 8 a.m. on Thursday, the time of the latest NHC update, the storm was 40 miles southeast of Orlando and 10 miles west of Cape Canaveral, moving northeast at 8 mph and causing winds of up to 65 mph in some places.
Ian is expected now to turn toward the north, increase in speed, and move off the east-central coast of Florida later on Thursday. It is then forecasted to approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday, possibly as a hurricane yet again if it re-intensifies, which the NHC believes it will.
Because Ian has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm, the NHC has also dropped all of its Hurricane Warnings along the east and west coasts of the Florida Peninsula. Strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surge across portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas are still possible.
The danger at the moment, according to the NHC, is “the combination of storm surge and the tide” that will cause some normally dry areas on the Florida coast to be flooded by rising waters.
"Ian [is] producing catastrophic flood over east-central Florida...[and is forecasted] to produce life-threatening flooding, storm surge, and gusty winds across portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas," the NHC wrote in its latest update.
There is also still an ongoing recovery effort for those impacted by Ian’s arrival along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday. The storm was just a tick below a Category 5 rating with winds of up to 150 mph when it arrived.
According to the Florida Public Service Commission, more than 2 million Floridians are without power as of Thursday morning, mostly along that coast. High seawaters swept into homes in some waterfront communities in the cities of Naples and Ft. Myers and some people who chose not to evacuate were stranded in their homes, beyond the reach of some rescue crew.
All flights from the following airports are still halted: Orlando International, Tampa International, St. Pete-Clearwater International, Gainesville Regional, and Southwest Florida International Airport.
Ft. Lauderdale International Airport is open and operational, but a lot of flights are still delayed or canceled.
Miami International is open, but like Ft. Lauderdale, some flights are delayed or canceled due to the storm. Miami is telling travelers to confirm flight status with their airline before arriving at the airport.
Jacksonville International Airport is also open, but more than 80% of flights out of the airport are canceled, according to FlightAware.
There are also some flight cancellations in airports further north, including Charleston International, Hartsfield International, and Charlotte/Douglas International. Those cancellations and delays will continue through Ian’s arrivals in that area later this week.
Resorts, Hotels, and Cruise Lines
Tampa-area hotels are mostly still assessing damage from Ian. Tampa Marriott Water Street, for instance, is closed through Sep. 30 and is waiving cancellation fees for all scheduled guests.
The Seminole Hard Rock and Casino Tampa closed to all non-registered hotel guests starting Wednesday and said that it will remain closed “until conditions allow us to reopen.
“We encourage you to do what you can to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe,” the resort said in a message this week.
The Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay has suspended all normal hotel operations and said it expected to resume normal hotel operations on Oct. 1. It is also waiving cancellation fees for stays through Oct. 3.
Hotels in other areas are also dealing with the fallout. The Ritz-Carlton, Naples remains closed and said it will waive cancellation fees through Oct. 3. The LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples said it “will remain closed till the storm passes, and all current and future reservations will be canceled without penalty.”
Most all operations at Orlando’s two major theme park resorts—Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando—remain closed on Thursday. Both could reopen on Friday.
In a message to its guests, Disney said it is allowing them to reschedule or cancel their stays at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels without any cancellation fees. It is also allowing those with partially used multi-day tickets to be extended to allow the use of the remaining unused ticket days.