TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian is moving onshore in Florida, taking aim at the state’s southwestern coast as a powerful Category 4 storm, just shy of Category 5 strength.
Ian started moving onshore in Florida at Sanibel and Captiva Islands Wednesday afternoon. The most recent advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm has maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, making it a high-end Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Category 4 storms have wind speeds of 130 to 156 mph, while Category 5 storms have wind speeds of 157 mph or higher.
With winds from Ian being just short of 157 mph, some may be wondering if it can reach Category 5 strength as it approaches Florida.
While WFLA meteorologists say it is possible, it’s not likely as of Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s possible. Over the past hour, 1,000 lightning strikes have occurred in the eyewall,” WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said. “I’ve never seen this rate of lightning in a hurricane core, which indicates a strengthening storm.”
According to Berardelli, Ian is using the hot water it’s churning over in the Gulf of Mexico as fuel.
“It’s converting that energy into, first, vertical rising air, and then, horizontal motion in winds spiraling around the eye,” he said. “So it has a chance at Cat 5.”
However, Berardelli explains the storm is now running out of time to reach Category 5 wind speeds as it starts to move onshore. As of 12 p.m. local time, the eyewall is already starting to interact with land.
“The storm is about to make landfall, so if it’s gonna happen, it has to happen now,” he said.
Tracking Hurricane Ian