Hurricane Ian is leaving Florida as a tropical storm, but forecasters are warning that, as it moves back over the water, it could regain strength and create hazardous conditions from Florida to North Carolina.
"A turn toward the north is expected late today, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest with an increase in forward speed Friday night," the National Hurricane Center said Thursday morning. "On the forecast track, Ian will approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday. The center will move farther inland across the Carolinas Friday night and Saturday."
The latest warnings for the Atlantic Coast come as residents of southwest Florida emerge from the system's intense winds and catastrophic storm surge, and first responders coordinate rescue efforts and attempt to reestablish power lines and communication channels.
According to the hurricane center, "widespread, life-threatening" flash and urban flooding, along with "major to record flooding" near rivers, will continue across central Florida.
Tropical Storm Ian's center was located approximately 68 miles south of Orlando, Florida, at 11 a.m. ET and its maximum sustained winds have increased to nearly 70 mph. Hurricane-strength winds begin at 74 mph, according to the hurricane center.
As in southwest Florida, the biggest threat posed by Ian is the storm surge. The storm's slow pace of 9 mph as it travels north also increases the risk of flood-inducing rainfall.
The area under threat of flooding and damaging high winds is wide, as Ian is a large cyclone, projecting tropical-storm-force winds up to 415 miles from the center.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the entire coast of South Carolina, and a tropical storm warning has been extended northward to Duck, North Carolina, including Pamlico Sound.
A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, according to the hurricane center. Hurricane preparations should be rushed through to completion.
Ian is currently forecast to move out northeast over the ocean and pass Jacksonville, Florida, before turning and making landfall between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.
The National Weather Service in Charleston said it expects Ian to "approach north coastal Georgia and south coastal South Carolina as a hurricane, making landfall on Friday." The hurricane center said tropical storm winds are expected to begin affecting South Carolina and Georgia overnight, with hurricane winds following early Friday.
Thursday afternoon's high tide is expected to bring the "first round of coastal flooding" with it in South Carolina, according to the NWS office in Charleston. Flooding will likely continue through Friday, it said.
Many coastal areas could also get up to 8 inches of rain, according to the NWS.
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