Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warns Florida residents Tuesday night that the "time to evacuate is coming to an end," as Hurricane Ian closes in on the state's southwest coast. Photo by Robert Kaufmann/FEMA/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Florida residents Tuesday night the "time to evacuate is coming to an end," as Hurricane Ian closes in on the southwest coast of the state.
"If you are in an evacuation zone, particularly southwest Florida counties, your time to evacuate is coming to an end," the governor said. "You need to evacuate now or you're going to start feeling major impacts of this storm relatively soon."
DeSantis spoke to reporters at 11 p.m. Tuesday, warning Hurricane Ian will impact the entire state, with Ian forecast to make landfall between Charlotte and Lee Counties as a category 4 hurricane sometime Wednesday afternoon and into Wednesday evening.
"You need to get to higher ground. You need to get to structures that are safe," he said.
"There will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge on the gulf coast region," DeSantis added. "Of course, the highest risk will be in that southwest Florida region."
DeSantis also warned there could be tornadoes throughout the night and into Wednesday.
"Tornado watches are in effect overnight and in south Florida until 5 a.m.," DeSantis said. "We have two radar-indicated tornados in Kings Point, in Palm Beach, as well as possible tornadoes in Hollywood, in Broward County."
As people continue to evacuate, the governor announced Florida Department of Transportation officials could start closing bridges Wednesday if the winds become too strong for safe driving. Tolls on many roads have been suspended.
Besides the 175 shelters open statewide, DeSantis said there are also hotel room options on Expedia and on AirBnB for people, and their pets, leaving evacuation zones.
"We think it's very important that you don't leave your pets behind. Bring your pets with you," he said. "They need you during this time. We have asked the hotels to relax their pet policies."
The governor said search and rescue teams are standing by throughout the state, as well as more than 30,000 personnel to help with power restoration. About 8,000 customers are currently without power in southeast Florida.
"Of course that number will be into the millions relatively shortly," DeSantis said. "You're going to see widespread power outages as a result of Hurricane Ian making landfall and working its way through the state of Florida."
DeSantis warned the slow-moving storm will impact all of Florida for the next several days and is not expected to leave the northern part of the state until sometime Friday morning.
"When it actually reaches landfall, it is likely to go to a trickle and dump an enormous amount of rain on the state of Florida," DeSantis said.
"It's going to work its way from southwest Florida to the central part of our state and have major impact. Once it gets out of Florida, it'll be kicking up a lot of water and that's going to impact northeast Florida," he said. "So this is going to have widespread impact."