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FEMA to Florida residents: Don't underestimate Hurricane Ian's strength

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FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell warns about the dangers of Hurricane Ian to Florida residents during the daily press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b760472f4b9f4dc55b725bae2d81e863/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell warns about the dangers of Hurricane Ian to Florida residents during the daily press briefing at the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged Florida residents Tuesday not to underestimate the danger of Hurricane Ian, which is predicted to bring up to 25 inches of rain and a 10-foot storm surge.

"We're talking about impacts in parts of Florida that hasn't seen a direct impact in nearly 100 years," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said from the White House briefing room as she urged resident to "get ready" and not be complacent.

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Evacuations have stepped up along the Florida Gulf Coast and Tampa Bay as Hurricane Ian intensifies to a Category 3 hurricane ahead of its expected landing in the Sunshine State.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference Tuesday that about 2.5 million Florida residents are currently under an evacuation order and the storm's path continues to change. He said while Tampa is still expected to get the brunt of the storm, Ian could cross the state west to east instead of up the Gulf Coast.

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"You will see heavy rains in counties that are not necessarily on Florida's Gulf Coast," DeSantis said. "We have a state of emergency for all 67 counties and we're going to keep that in place."

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Criswell warned of the possibility of inland flooding, tornadoes and hurricane-force winds, adding that Florida "is going to experience the impacts of this storm for a very long time."

She urged residents to listen to local officials and heed evacuation orders rather than trying to ride out the storm.

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"The decision you choose to make may be the difference between life and death," she said.

FEMA is preparing to help restore power, distribute food and water and assist with search-and-rescue efforts, if the need arises.

Tampa has been under a hurricane warning since Monday evening, with officials warning residents of threatening storm surges.

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"Life-threatening storm surge associated with Hurricane Ian is possible along the Florida west coast beginning late Tuesday," the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday. "Residents in these areas should listen to advise from local officials."

Officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties have ordered evacuations along with an installation-wide mandatory evacuation of MacDill Air Force Base.

Tampa Electric Co. also warned residents that they should expect extended power outages if they decided to ride out the storm. The company said it has already called inline workers from as far away as Texas and Indiana to deal with the potential clean-up.

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Area airports are discontinuing operations because of the hurricane. Tampa International stopped flights at 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday, while Orlando International planned to halt flights at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

DeSantis said Monday that Florida's entire Gulf Coast should be prepared for high winds and a significant storm surge with Ian's increasing winds.

"Floridians up and down the Gulf Coast should feel the impacts of this," DeSantis said on Monday, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. "This is a really, really big hurricane at this point."

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