What we know about Hurricane Ian's size and speed
If Hurricane Ian hits at its current intensity or higher, it will be the strongest storm to ever make landfall on the west coast of the Florida Peninsula on record.
Hurricane Ian underwent another bout of rapid Intensification in the past 24 hours, with its top-end winds increasing by 40 mph (from 115 to 155 mph) in about 16 hours.
Hurricanes undergoing rapid intensification in the 24 hours before landfall have been increasingly common in recent years. This was happened with Hurricanes Michael, Ida and Harvey, among others.
What we know about the storm surge
Hurricane Charley, also a Category 4, hit the same area in 2004 and brought a max of 6 to 7 feet of storm surge. This could be at least twice as high.
Storm surge is expected to be higher than Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that brought a 9 to 14 feet surge to the Panhandle in 2018.
Hurricane Ian's size:
Tropical-storm-force winds spread also across more than 320 miles, a distance that would reach from Washington, DC, to Cleveland, Ohio.
About Ian's speed:
The storm is expected to slow down after landfall, moving at only 6 to 7 mph and taking more than 24 hours to move across Florida.
This could expose areas to hurricane-force winds for eight hours or more, and tropical-storm-force winds for well over 24 hours.
From CNN's Melissa Alonso
Hillsborough County Schools in the Tampa area will be closed until at least Friday, district officials said in an update Wednesday.
the district announced in a post on Facebook.
"For this reason, we will need to close schools through Friday, September 30th, in order to thoroughly clean campuses and we anticipate a return to school on Monday, October 3rd," said district officials. "We hope you and your family are safe and prepared for the impact of Hurricane Ian to our area," according to the post.
From CNN's Melissa Alonso
Tampa International Airport has extended its closure due to the hurricane.
the airport said.
The storm will cause "catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding" in the areas in its path soon, it added.
National Hurricane Center's acting Deputy Director Michael Brennan explained what will happen next.
"The eyewall of Ian is going to continue to move onshore for the next few hours and you're going to start to see those water levels rise — that big push of gulf water comes up" in places like Charlotte Habor, Punta Gorda, he said. "That's where we is see the 12 to 18 feet of storm surge inundation above ground level — that's three times as tall as I am. That's really an unsurvivable circumstance that’s going to unfold in southwest Florida over the next few hours."
Brennan said water levels are expected to remain elevated through Thursday.
"I would expect water levels to remain elevated all through tonight and into Thursday. In addition to that, you’re going to have several inches of rainfall that will flow in and not have anywhere to drain on the other end. It won't be able to go out in the harbors and into the gulf. So you’re going to have a widespread inundation event here," he told CNN.
More than 200,000 customers have lost power in Florida so far
Collier County, which includes Naples and Marco Island, is still the most affected with over 43,000 customers out of power, according to the site.
The site also reports that Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral, has over 40,000 customer power outages.