Hurricane Ian’s top sustained winds increased in a matter of hours from 120 mph to 155 mph, making it a high-end Category 4 hurricane Wednesday morning.
The hurricane is 2 mph shy of becoming a Category 5 storm.
The hurricane is expected to come ashore later Wednesday on the Florida Gulf Coast, somewhere between Tampa and Fort Myers.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told residents early Wednesday it is no longer safe to evacuate.
While the National Hurricane Center is warning that Hurricane Ian’s winds will be catastrophic, it is also concerned about the storm’s rainfall and storm surge.
Forecasters now project a storm surge of 12 to 16 feet will strike the coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach.
The National Hurricane Center also projects that 12 to 18 inches of rain could fall in a swath along Interstate 4.
“This is going to have widespread impact,” DeSantis said. “So you see major hurricane category for that initial impact that's going to be severe. The storm surge is going to be severe, obviously, the water and the flooding for a slow-moving storm, very severe impacts in southwest Florida, but those impacts are going to continue going out all through the state.”
DeSantis warned Florida residents that power could go out during and after the storm.
He said there are 30,000 utility workers ready to restore power when it is safe to do so.
"This is a major, major storm," DeSantis said. "It’s potentially that it could make landfall as a Category 5, but clearly, this is a very powerful major hurricane that’s going to have major impacts.”
Once the hurricane comes ashore, it will slowly drift to the northeast, across Florida. It could also remain a tropical storm as it heads toward Georgia and South Carolina on Friday.