By Judson Jones, CNN Meteorologist
The sun has risen over the Sunshine State, and soon we will know more about the trail of destruction Hurricane Ian has left behind in southwest Florida. Many of the hardest hit areas lost all communications during the height of the storm, and we just don’t know yet how bad it was there.
“It’s hard to tell exactly what you have until you’re able to start to access these places,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno told CNN Thursday morning on “New Day.”
“There are people that I know that did not evacuate, they’re in their homes. They’ve tried to take cover. They’ve gone to the second floor, and possibly even the attic, because the water got so high here with the surge of approximately 15 feet give or take.”
And Ian isn’t over.
It has weakened into a robust tropical storm still unleashing feet of rain as the center of the storm moves off the east coast of Florida.
Multiple areas around the Orlando metro area are under a flash flood emergency where flooding is already occurring.
Between 10 to 15 inches of rain have fallen in the area and another 2 to 4 inches are possible.
Ian will move off the east-central coast of Florida later Thursday and then approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday.
Top wind speeds with Ian are at 65 mph, with higher gusts, but tropical storm-force winds (39 mph+) are stretching all the way from Tampa, Florida, to north of Charleston, South Carolina.
The tropical-storm-force wind field stretches for more than 550 miles on Thursday, which is around 200 miles more than when Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday.
“Some slight re-intensification is forecast, and Ian could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday,” the Hurricane Center says.
While not as strong as when it hit the west coast of Florida, it will bring strong damaging winds, storm surge and flooding rains to these coastlines.
We are monitoring this restrengthening closely but, whether it does or not, those in the storm’s path should be ready for these tropical conditions.
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CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.