TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Ian is expected by many to become the fifth strongest Hurricane to strike the United States mainland on record — if it maintains its current maximum wind intensity until landfall.
As of the National Hurricane Center’s latest major update at 11 a.m. Hurricane Ian held a maximum sustained windspeed of 155 mph — merely two miles per hour short of a Category 5 strength hurricane.
According to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an unnamed storm that hit Florida on Sept. 3, 1935, holds the all-time record as a Category 5 hurricane with maximum wind speeds measured at 185 mph.
If Ian maintains its strength as it barrels into the West Coast of Florida Wednesday afternoon, it could affix itself to the top five list, beating out Hurricane Ida which slammed Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2021.
Only two Category 5 storms — Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Michael in 2018 — have hit the U.S. in the last three decades.
However, experts said Hurricane Ian had a comparable amount of integrated kinetic energy found in Hurricanes Michael and Laura, meaning it had comparable amounts of force needed to churn up surface waves and surges.
The National Hurricane Center says Category 4 hurricanes have the potential to cause “catastrophic damage” to well-built homes, particularly roof structures and/or some exterior walls. Trees can easily be snapped and uprooted and power poles will be downed. Power outages can last weeks, possibly months.
While it’s unclear exactly when Ian will make landfall, the NHC projects it will have a direct impact off the coast of Charlotte County sometime Wednesday afternoon dumping between 12 and 18 inches of rain on Central Florida, with some areas seeing isolated maximum amounts of 24 inches.