Hurricane Ian was so powerful that its winds were just a few miles per hour shy of making it a Category 5 storm as iton Wednesday. And it didn’t take long for it to unleash its wrath on Florida’s power grids.
Ian’s eye began moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva islands by midday on Wednesday. Before 2:30 p.m. ET, more than 660,000 customers had their power knocked out, according to tracking on poweroutage.us. Just two hours later, the total surpassed 1 million outages. After sundown, the number surged once again – bringing the total of those without power as of 10 p.m. to more than 2 million people. And shortly after 5 a.m., the number of homes and businesses in the dark was over 2.5 million.
Southwest Florida was bearing the brunt of the impact. Nearly every customer in several counties, including DeSoto, Charlotte and Lee, was without power as of early Thursday. At least half of all customers in several neighboring counties, including Manatee, Sarasota, Collier, Highlands and Glades, were without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Reports of outages continued to extend north along the Gulf Coast, with major disruptions going as far north as Citrus County. Smaller disruptions continued to creep towards the panhandle.
Areas along Florida’s eastern coast were also seeing outages. Miami-Dade, while hard-hit with power disruptions, saw steady restorations throughout the day. Outages were also being seen more inland and were detected in every single county on the state’s east coast.
Florida officials have been warning for days of the potential power issues. Ian has been relentless on its track,when it raked the island on Tuesday, although power in some areas has been restored.
The National Weather Service warned prior to landfall that Hurricane Ian would cause “catastrophic” wind damage in Florida’s southwest. The service’s director, Ken Graham, said during a press briefing on Wednesday that the storm would take 24 hours to complete its journey across the state after the eye made landfall.
“This is going to be a storm that we talk about for many years to come,” he said.
Florida Power & Light, the main provider to the homes and businesses reporting outages, tweeted on Wednesday that the company was expecting “widespread, extend” outages. Of its more than 5.7 million tracked customers through PowerOutage.us, more than 1 million had reportedly lost power.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Wednesday that there were more than 30,000 linemen “staged and ready” to help restore power when it is safe to do so. Gov Ron DeSantis said later in the day that number had increased to 42,000.