Hurricane Ian: Storm getting stronger as it moves closer to South Carolina

Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday afternoon and is taking aim at the coast of South Carolina with an expected third landfall on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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The storm made landfall Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane near Cayo Costa, Florida, before weakening to a tropical storm early Thursday.

Here are the latest updates for Thursday, Sept. 29:

Storm getting stronger as it moves toward South Carolina

Update 11:34 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: According to the National Hurricane Center, Air Force Hurricane Hunters discovered that Ian was a little bit stronger than had been reported during the agency’s 11 p.m. EDT advisory.

In a bulletin, the hurricane center said that Ian now had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph at its center.

Storm gains strength as it moves toward South Carolina

Update 11:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Hurricane Ian is expected to make a turn to the north as the Category 1 threatens the South Carolina coast.

According to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the storm gained strength and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Ian was located 185 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, and about 265 miles south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The storm continues to move to the north-northeast at 10 mph.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, the NHC said. A tropical storm warning is in effect from the Sebastian Inlet in Florida to the Savannah River, and from Cape Fear north to Duck, North Carolina and Pamlico Sound.

Jacksonville airport to reopen Friday

Update 8:58 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: The Jacksonville International Airport will open Friday with “limited food service,” WJAX-TV reported.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will restart its regular bus service Friday by noon, according to the television station.

Ian continues churning toward South Carolina

Update 8:04 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Hurricane Ian remained a minimal hurricane as it churned toward the South Carolina coast.

In its 8 p.m. EDT advisory, the National Hurricane Center said that Ian had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The storm was moving north-northeast at 10 mph and its center was located 215 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, and 300 miles south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

A hurricane warning is in effect from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, the NHC said. A tropical storm warning is in effect from the Sebastian Inlet in Florida to the Savannah River, and from Cape Fear north to Duck, North Carolina and Pamlico Sound.

2 confirmed deaths on Sanibel Island

Update 7:52 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Sanibel Island officials confirmed in their first news conference that two people died as a result of Hurricane Ian.

Officials said at least 200 households remained on the island during the storm, the Fort Myers News-Press reported. Officials said that at least 40 people were evacuated who were not injured and 12 were taken to area hospitals.

DeSantis: Destruction ‘indescribable’

Update 7:43 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would not confirm the number of deaths caused by Hurricane Ian, but did say that there have been 700 confirmed cases of people being rescued.

The governor said that he viewed the damages in Lee County.

“Some of the damage was almost indescribable,” DeSantis said during a Thursday evening news conference. “Some of the homes were wiped out. Some of it was just concrete slabs.”

DeSantis said that as of 6 p.m. EDT, there were 2.6 million customers still without power, including 200,000 in southwest Florida, where Ian made landfall.

The governor said the death totals “will be made apparent over the coming days.”

Charleston County declares state of emergency

Update 5:33 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: In South Carolina, the Charleston County Council declared a state of emergency as residents prepare for Ian, which regained hurricane strength and was located 240 miles south of Charleston.

The council in a media release that the county “has moved operations to OPCON 1 meaning a disaster or emergency is imminent.”

“There is the potential for major flooding tomorrow,” Charleston County Emergency Management Director Joe Coates said in a statement. “If you live on a barrier island or a low-lying area that historically floods, and you haven’t moved to higher ground, I recommend you relocate now.”

Hospitals in Lee County evacuating 400 patients

Update 5:25 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Lee Health hospitals in southwest Florida are evacuating up to 400 patients to hospitals in Collier County because of water pressure losses at two of its campuses, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

More patients will be transferred in the next few days as beds are found, according to Larry Antonucci, president and chief executive officer of Lee Health.

Ian becomes hurricane again, takes aim at SC

Update 5:03 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Ian regained strength late Thursday afternoon and became a minimal Category 1 hurricane. The storm, which left a trail of destruction after crossing the Florida peninsula, is now taking aim at South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In its 5 p.m. EDT advisory, the hurricane center said that Ian had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph at its center and was located 240 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina.

The storm was moving north-northeast at 10 mph.

A hurricane warning is in effect from the Savannah River to the Little River Inlet near the North Carolina-South Carolina border. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Vero Beach, Florida, to the Savannah River, and from Little River Inlet north to Duck, North Carolina and Pamlico Sound.

The NHC will issue an intermediate advisory at 8 p.m. EDT.

Walt Disney World to reopen Friday

Update 4:23 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: The Walt Disney Company announced that its theme parks and several operation areas will reopen on Friday as Tropical Storm Ian moves out of Central Florida.

“While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests today, we anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Walt Disney World Resort will resume theme park and Disney Springs operations in a phased approach starting on Friday, Sept. 30.”

Disney officials said the exact hours of operation will be updated later.

Universal Studios Florida has not said when it might reopen, The New York Times reported. Photos online indicate there was damage to the Central Florida theme park’s “Jurassic Park” ride.

DeSantis visits Lee County emergency center

Update 4:18 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his wife, Casey DeSantis, visited the Lee County emergency operations center on Thursday afternoon, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cayo Costa Island on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm and has since weakened to a tropical storm.

More than 500 rescued in Charlotte, Lee counties

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Since launching search and rescue efforts early Thursday morning, authorities have rescued more than 500 people in two counties hard hit by Hurricane Ian.

Rescue efforts are ongoing.

What to do if you’re in Georgia or the Carolinas

Update 3:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: The National Hurricane Center on Thursday forecast that Tropical Storm Ian would regain strength to become a hurricane before making landfall in South Carolina on Friday.

Officials urged people in coastal parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to finalize preparations ahead of the storm.

6 deaths reported in Charlotte County

Update 3:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials told CNN that six deaths have been confirmed in Charlotte County after Hurricane Ian barreled into Florida on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we do have six confirmed fatalities at this time,” Charlotte County Commissioner Chris Constance told the news network. “We have all of our crews out now, assessing damage, doing search and rescue. It’s the biggest catastrophe I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Additional information on the deaths was not immediately available.

Earlier officials in Volusia County confirmed one death.

Boeing suspends operations in South Carolina

Update 2:40 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with Boeing on Thursday announced plans to suspend operations at the company’s South Carolina campuses due to the threat posed by Tropical Storm Ian.

In a statement, officials said they will suspend operations at the company’s two campuses following the second shift on Thursday.

“To be clear, teammates should NOT come into work starting with third shift today,” the company said. “At this time, we anticipate normal operations to resume beginning third shift on Sunday, Oct. 2.”


More than 5,000 National Guard members positioned to help with Ian response

Update 2:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials said National Guardsmen from several states, including Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and New York, were responding on Thursday to aid in rescue and recovery efforts in communities devasted by Hurricane Ian.

“In the immediate aftermath, search and rescue will be the focus,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Thursday in a statement. “Our concern is saving lives and getting our folks in there as quickly as possible to make a difference in that critical time to get people out of situations that may be potentially life-threatening to them.”

Police urge people to be wary of insurance scams in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Update 2:25 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida warned people to be careful of unsolicited calls about insurance claims or policies as people begin to asses the damage left by Hurricane Ian.

Ian expected to bring life-threatening flooding, storm surge to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas

Update 2:20 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with the National Weather Service on Thursday warned that Tropical Storm Ian is forecast to produce life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds to parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

In a 2 p.m. advisory, forecasters said the storm was about 40 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and 275 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. It maintained strength with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Sanibel Island hit by ‘really biblical storm surge,’ Florida governor says

Update 2:10 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Storm surge caused wide-ranging damage to Sanibel Island, washing away roads and older structures and prompting rescues, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

“Sanibel is destruction,” the governor said. “It’s a beautiful place, a really neat community, and it got hit with really biblical storm surge.”

Photos shared on social media showed a portion of the Sanibel Causeway, which connects the island to the mainland, was washed away by the storm. Reports indicated the section was 50 to 60 feet long.

9 migrants rescued after vessel carrying 27 sinks off Florida Keys

Update 1:50 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that nine people have been rescued following a failed “illegal migration venture” off the Florida Keys.

Earlier, authorities said four Cuban migrants swam to Stock Island after the vessel they were on sank Wednesday as Hurricane Ian churned toward the Florida coast. At least three people were rescued in the water south of Boca Chica, according to USCG. The trio was taken to a hospital for treatment of apparent exhaustion and dehydration.

Search efforts continue Thursday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to play Sunday game at stadium as planned

Update 1:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers said Thursday that they have informed the NFL that they plan to play Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium as previously scheduled.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the many thousands in the Southwest Florida region who have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian,” team officials said in a statement. “We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm.”

Biden says he plans to travel to Florida after Hurricane Ian

Update 1:35 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: President Joe Biden said Thursday that he plans to travel to Florida to thank first responders and officials who are aiding in efforts related to Hurricane Ian.

“Every time disaster strikes, emergency crews from all over the country ... from across the federal government show up to help like they’re doing right now in Florida,” the president said while speaking from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Washington. “That’s America. A country of women and men willing to serve, willing to leave their own families to help a stranger’s family.

“Everyone hard at work in Florida right now deserves our thanks, and when the conditions allow it, I’m going to be going to Florida to thank them personally, so we don’t get in the way.”

The president added that officials are “going to do our best to build Florida back as quickly as possible.”

“However long it takes, we’re going to be there. That’s my commitment to them,” he said.

Ian ‘could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,’ Biden says

Update 1:20 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: As damage assessments and rescue efforts continue across parts of Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian, President Joe Biden said the storm “could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.”

“The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” the president said while speaking at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.

Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier said rescue efforts aimed at helping those stranded or trapped by Ian launched around 1 a.m.

“In the face of serious danger, search and rescue operations got underway before dawn this morning for people stranded and who are in desperate shape,” Biden said Thursday. “We’re going to learn a lot more in the coming hours, but we know many families are hurting – many, many are hurting today, and our entire country hurts with them.”

President Biden thanks FEMA workers

Update 1:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: President Joe Biden thanked workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Washington on Thursday for their work coordinating the response to Hurricane Ian.

“You’re doing a hell of a job,” he said. “There’s a lot, over the last six, eight, ten years, there’s been a loss of faith in government, and along the way it just keeps eroding because (people) wonder whether or not the institutions work, and you’re coordinating all these institutions. ... You are reinforcing people’s faith in the institution … in, can it work?”

The president is set to deliver remarks after receiving a briefing on the impacts of Ian and the ongoing response efforts.

AT&T waiving charges for talk, text and data in several Florida counties

Update 12:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with AT&T on Wednesday announced that the company is waiving talk, text and data overage charges for customers who live in any of 828 zip codes across Florida through Oct. 28 to help those affected by Hurricane Ian.

Customers include those who have Postpaid and PREPAID accounts, officials said.

Tampa International Airport to resume flights Friday

Update 12:35 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials expect to reopen Tampa International Airport to commercial flights beginning at 10 a.m. Friday.

“Airport maintenance and operations staff inspected the airfield and facilities this morning and determined TPA did not sustain any serious damage during the storm,” officials said in a statement Thursday.

Search and rescue efforts launched at 1 a.m. in Florida

Update 12:20 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials launched search and rescue efforts in areas impacted by Hurricane Ian at 1 a.m. on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

Several agencies are involved in the search efforts, including local authorities, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard.

It remained unclear Thursday afternoon how many people were in need of rescue. Officials in Lee County earlier speculated that hundreds of people might have died as a result of Ian. DeSantis said the speculation came from the number of people suspected of needing rescue.

Ian expected to strengthen into hurricane again

Update 12 p.m. EDT Sept. 29: Tropical Storm Ian is expected to strengthen into a hurricane again before making landfall on the coast of South Carolina on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In an 11 a.m. advisory, officials said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just 4 mph from the strength needed to designate it as a Category 1 hurricane.

“We’re forecasting Ian to become a hurricane overnight tonight and be a hurricane as it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday,” said Michael Brennan, acting deputy director of the National Hurricane Center.

“We’ve now issued a hurricane warning for the entire coast of the state of South Carolina with the anticipation that there are going to be hurricane conditions experienced somewhere in that area during the day on Friday.”

A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are also in effect for the Georgia coast.

Drone video shows extensive flooding in Kissimmee, Florida

Update 11:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Video shared by officials in Kissimmee showed extensive flooding around HCA Florida Osceola Hospital, WFTV reported.

Officials asked that people shelter in place as rescue efforts continue.

Viral video shows man saving cat from floodwaters

Update 11:30 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: A video that went viral after being posted Wednesday on social media showed a man saving a cat stranded by floodwaters near Bonita Beach.

Conditions remain hazardous after Ian’s arrival

Update 11:15 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials warned Thursday that conditions remained hazardous across a broad swathe of Florida following Ian’s landfall one day earlier.

“As people have emerged this morning, part in the areas that were hard hit, just understand – this is still a hazardous situation,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. “Those folks that were in there in the wee hours of the morning were taking big risks as first responders navigating this. You have power lines that are down, you have trees that are down, you have a lot of hazards right now.”

Officials expect water to subside on some of the barrier islands and coastal regions, though DeSantis said standing water would likely remain in areas inland that are off rivers and inlets.

Rescue efforts remain ongoing.

Florida governor: 2 deaths believed to be linked to storm

Update 10:40 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday morning that officials were aware of two deaths that might be linked to Hurricane Ian.

“We have had two unconfirmed fatalities in the sense that we don’t know that they’re linked to the storm,” the governor said. “Our assumption is (that they) likely (are). ... (The Florida Department of Law Enforcement) will make that assessment.”

Earlier, deputies in Volusia County said a 73-year-old man died after he went out into the storm to drain a pool. It was not immediately clear if the death was included in the two noted by the governor.

DeSantis said that an estimate from officials in Lee County that hundreds of people may have died as a result of the storm came from looking at calls from people reporting rising water in their homes.

“Those folks are now going to be checked on, and so I think you’re going to have more clarity about that in the next day or so as they’re able to go to those locations and determine whether people need services or are able to be rescued,” he said.

Storm recovery will be ‘a very, very long process,’ Florida governor says

Update 10:30 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that Hurricane Ian “changed the character of a significant part of our state.”

“This is going to require not just emergency response now, in the days or weeks ahead — this is going to require years of effort to be able to rebuild and to come back,” he said at a news conference.

Ian brought rain and storm surge that flooded swathes of Florida, damaging buildings and causing power outages that affected millions of residents. More than two dozen states have responded to aid Florida as it grapples with the aftermath of the storm’s landfall, and a federal emergency declaration has been issued for several counties.

“These are fantastic communities down in Southwest Florida, with a lot of fantastic people and they’re very tough and resilient,” DeSantis said Thursday. “Of course, they didn’t ask for this, but they need our help now and we’re going to be there for them.

“And we understand that this is going to be a very, very long process and we also understand that these effects are going to go throughout the state today. And you’re going to continue to see effects from flooding and these other ailments not just today but in the days ahead.”

Nearly 2,000 flights canceled, hundreds more delayed

Update 9:55 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Nearly 2,000 flights within, going to or leaving the U.S. have been cancelled Thursday as daybreaks over the devastation left by Hurricane Ian, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.

The site reported nearly 800 additional flights have been delayed.

Several airports closed ahead of Ian’s arrival in Florida on Wednesday. Officials with Orlando International Airport said Thursday that commercial flight operations remained halted.

“A damage assessment is taking place throughout our airport and facilities,” airport officials said. “All roads leading into Orlando International Airport are closed due ot flooding at this time.”

Florida governor to request expansion of major disaster declaration

Update 9:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he plans to ask President Joe Biden to expand a major disaster declaration issued for nine Florida counties due to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian.

The governor said he spoke earlier Thursday with the president, who offered his support.

“I told him thanks for this, but because this storm has moved inland and has cause a lot of potential damage and the center part of our state that we were going to be asking for those counties to be expanded and included there,” he said. “That will allow individual Floridians to seek individual assistance from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

Officials with FEMA said that Biden approved a disaster declaration for Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

White House officials said that Biden told DeSantis he plans to send FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to Florida on Friday to check on response efforts and determine where more support is needed.

Florida flooding ‘basically a 500-year flood event,’ governor says

Update 9:35 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the amount of water causing flooding across portions of Florida impacted by Ian constituted “basically a 500-year flood event.”

At a news conference on Thursday, the governor said he expected to see more images of “the destruction that was done in Southwest Florida.”

“People should just understand, this storm is having broad impacts across the state, and some of the flooding you’re going to see in areas hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records,” he said. “That’s going to, obviously, be things that will need to be responded to.”

28 helicopters part of ongoing search and rescue efforts

Update 9:25 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search and rescue teams continue working to find and rescue people trapped or stranded by Ian, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Thursday morning.

“The Coast Guard has been performing rescue missions on the barrier islands consistently since the wee hours of the morning,” the governor said at a news conference. He added that 28 helicopters are scouring for survivors.

Officials rescued 10 families from Astor in Lake County before rising floodwaters halted efforts, WFTV reported.

Storm knocks out power to 2.6 million

Update 9:10 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: The number of people without electricity across Florida rose Thursday to 2.6 million as crews have begun efforts to restore power to the worst-hit areas, according to officials and a site that tracks power outages.

The outages were concentrated on the central and southwest coast of Florida and spread across the state, a map from PowerOutages.us showed.

At a news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that as of 6 a.m., 1.5 million outages had been reported in seven southwest Florida counties.

“Lee and Charlotte are basically off the grid at this point,” the governor said.

“The Charlotte and Lee reconnects are really going to likely have to be rebuilding of that infrastructure, and so there are linemen, there are crews that are on their way down right now, but that’s going to be more than just connecting a powerline back to a pole. The other counties likely are not going to require the extent of the structural rebuild, but of course that’s going to be assessed as the day goes on.”

Photos, videos show flooding, damage from storm

Update 8:50 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Videos and photos from Florida showed damage caused by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday.

Man dies after going out to drain pool during Hurricane Ian, deputies say

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT: A Deltona man died overnight after going outside to drain his pool during Hurricane Ian, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities went to the man’s house on Poinciana Lane near Lake Bethel around 1 a.m. after his wife reported that he hadn’t returned after going outside. Deputies found his flashlight before spotting him in a canal behind the home.

He was unresponsive.

Deputies pulled the man from the water and performed CPR. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Ian continues to flood east-central Florida

Update 8 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Tropical Storm Ian continues to produce “catastrophic flooding” over parts of east-central Florida, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday morning.

In its 8 a.m. EDT advisory, the agency said the storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, was about 40 miles east of Orlando and 10 miles west of Cape Canaveral. It was moving northeast at 8 mph.

Officials have discontinued a tropical storm warning from Boca Raton to Jupiter Inlet, the agency said. A storm surge warning also has been discontinued from the middle of Longboat Key south to Flamingo, including Charlotte Harbor.

Biden approves Florida disaster declaration

Update 7:42 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: President Joe Biden “declared that a major disaster exists” in Florida and is ordering federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts, the White House said in a news release Thursday morning.

The declaration means federal funding is now available to affected people in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, the release said.

“Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” the release said.

Portion of Sanibel Causeway collapses

Update 7 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Part of the Sanibel Causeway, the bridge used to travel to Sanibel Island by vehicle, has collapsed, according to the Tampa Bay Times and WBBH-TV.

WBBH reported that the section is about 50 to 65 feet long.

2.5 million customers without power in Florida

Update 6 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: More than 2.5 million customers are without power in Florida, according to a website that tracks outages.

PowerOutage.us is reporting that 2,517,064 customers in the state have lost power, including 421,268 in Lee County, 225,500 in Sarasota County, 218,108 in Hillsborough County, 202,855 in Collier County, 191,274 in Polk County, 159,765 in Manatee County and 148,488 in Orange County.

Flooding continues in Orlando

Update 5:21 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Streets are flooding in Orlando, according to WFTV.

“The street flooding has cars submerged in the area of Summerlin Avenue and South Street, not far from Lake Eola,” the news outlet reported shortly before 5 a.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, a flash flood warning was extended until 6:45 a.m. EDT for Orlando, Pine Hills and Kissimmee, the National Weather Service said.

Ian downgraded to tropical storm

Update 5 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Ian has been downgraded to a tropical storm but is still expected to produce strong winds, heavy rains and storm surge across parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday morning.

In its 5 a.m. EDT advisory, the agency said the storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, was about 40 miles southeast of Orlando and 35 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral. It was moving northeast at 8 mph.

The hurricane warnings for the east and west coasts of the Florida Peninsula have been changed to tropical storm warnings, the agency said. Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch north of Surf City, North Carolina, to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, has been upgraded to a tropical storm warning.

Additionally, officials have discontinued a storm surge watch from Florida’s Suwannee River to the middle of Longboat Key, including Tampa Bay, the agency said.

Kissimmee police, fire crews can’t respond to calls, city says

Update 3:45 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: As winds reached 45 mph in Kissimmee, the city announced that its police and fire crews can no longer respond to calls, according to WFTV.

Meanwhile, footage showed “major flooding” in the streets of the city, the news outlet reported.

A flash flood warning for Kissimmee, Pine Hills and Apopka remains in effect until 6:30 a.m. EDT, according to the National Weather Service.

Nearly 2.4 million customers without power in Florida

Update 3 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Nearly 2.4 million customers are without power in Florida, according to a website that tracks outages.

PowerOutage.us is reporting that 2,387,040 customers in the state have lost power, including 425,717 in Lee County, 257,180 in Sarasota County, 218,546 in Hillsborough County, 208,956 in Collier County and 171,715 in Manatee County.

NHC: Storm’s winds fall to 75 mph; flooding continues

Update 2 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Flooding rains continue to pummel central and northern Florida, the National Hurricane Center said early Thursday.

In its 2 a.m. EDT advisory, the agency said the Category 1 storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, was about 55 miles south-southeast of Orlando and 55 miles south-southwest of Cape Canaveral. It was moving northeast at 9 mph.

Officials have discontinued a hurricane warning from Bonita Beach to Chokoloskee and a tropical storm warning from Chokoloskee to Flamingo, the agency said.

Category 1 storm continues to batter Florida

Update 1 a.m. EDT Sept. 29: Hurricane Ian continues to bring strong winds, storm surge and flooding to the Florida Peninsula and is expected to move into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said late Wednesday.

In its 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the agency said the storm, now a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, was about 70 miles south of Orlando and 80 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral. It was moving north-northeast at 8 mph.

Officials discontinued a hurricane watch for Lake Okeechobee; a tropical storm warning south of Boca Raton; and a storm surge watch from Flamingo eastward to the Card Sound Bridge, including Florida Bay, the agency said.

The Associated Press, WFTV.com and ActionNewsJax.com contributed to this report.

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