TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The National Hurricane Center is anticipating “life-threatening storm surge” and “catastrophic winds” in Florida on Wednesday as Hurricane Ian is projected to make landfall along the state’s Gulf Coast.

The NHC predicted that the greatest risk of deadly storm surges would be in the area from Sarasota to Naples. Residents in these areas were told to head evacuation orders from local officials.

A 2 a.m. EDT advisory said that Hurricane Ian was about 95 miles southwest of Naples, Florida with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph – making it a powerful Category 3 major hurricane. The storm is moving north-northeast at about 10 mph.

Ian is expected to keep strengthening until its expected landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 140 miles.

Model data showed Ian continue to shift further to the south and east, moving Tampa Bay out of the line of a direct hit.

“This means the storms will move onshore more quickly and as a stronger storm,” WFLA Meteorologist Rebecca Barry said. “The worst of the impacts will be to the south of Tampa Bay. Sarasota, Hardee, eastern Hillsborough and Polk will see the heaviest rainfall and we are concerned we will see damaging flooding as a result of the downpours. Storm surge becomes less of a threat with this shift in the track.”

Ian is expected to approach the west coast of Florida and move onshore in the hurricane warning area Wednesday morning, according to the NHC. After landfall, Ian’s center will move over central Florida Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

By Thursday night, Ian is expected to emerge over the western Atlantic.

“Expect conditions to deteriorate throughout the day on Wednesday and the worst of the winds to push through overnight Wednesday night into Thursday,” Barry said.

Aside from the hurricane-force winds, tornadoes are also possible across central and south Florida.

Central Florida and northeast Florida are expected to see 12 to 18 inches of rain, with isolated totals possibly reaching a maximum of 24 inches. The Florida Keys and south Florida could see six to eight inches of rain with local maximum totals of 12 inches.

Eastern Georgia and coastal South Carolina can also expect four to eight inches of rain from Ian, according to the NHC.

Central Florida is forecast to have “widespread catastrophic” flash, urban, and river flooding while considerable flooding is expected for southern and northeast Florida, along with parts of Georgia and South Carolina.

At 12:30 a.m. Thursday, the NHC issued a new storm surge warning for the Lower Florida Keys.

The areas below are expected to experience the following levels of storm surge:

  • Middle of Longboat Key to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor — 8-12 ft
  • Bonita Beach to Chokoloskee — 6-10 ft
  • Anclote River to Middle of Longboat Key, including Tampa Bay — 4-6 ft
  • Suwannee River to Anclote River — 3-5 ft
  • Mouth of the St. Mary’s River to Altamaha Sound — 4-6 ft
  • Chokoloskee to East Cape Sable…4-7 ft
  • Lower Keys from Key West to Big Pine Key, including the Dry Tortugas — 3-5 ft
  • Flagler/Volusia County Line to Mouth of the St. Mary’s River, including St. Johns River — 3-5 ft
  • Altamaha Sound to Savannah River — 3-5 ft
  • St. Johns River south of Julington — 2-4 ft
  • Savannah River to South Santee River — 2-4 ft
  • East Cape Sable to Card Sound Bridge — 2-4 ft
  • Florida Keys east of Big Pine Key — 2-4 ft
  • Patrick Air Force Base to Flagler/Volusia County Line — 1-3 ft
  • Indian Pass to Suwanee River — 1-3 ft

The NHC said the deepest water will be near and to the right of the hurricane’s center, where large waves will accompany the storm surges. The flooding is dependent on the timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, creating varying levels of floodwaters over short distances.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:

  • Chokoloskee to Anclote River, including Tampa Bay
  • Dry Tortugas

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:

  • Suwannee River southward to Flamingo
  • Tampa Bay
  • Lower Florida Keys from Big Pine Key westward to Key West
  • Dry Tortugas
  • Flagler/Volusia Line to the mouth of the St. Mary’s River
  • St. Johns River

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:

  • Cuban provinces of La Habana, Mayabeque, and Matanzas
  • Indian Pass to the Anclote River
  • All of the Florida Keys
  • Flamingo to South Santee River
  • Flamingo to Chokoloskee
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Florida Bay
  • Bimini and Grand Bahama Islands

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:

  • Florida Keys from the Card Sound Bridge westward to east of Big Pine Key
  • Florida Bay
  • Mouth of St. Mary’s River to South Santee River

Tracking Hurricane Ian

>> Latest updates on Hurricane Ian

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>> Tampa Bay evacuations

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>> Max Defender 8 Hurricane Guide

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