LAKE MARY, Fla. - Florida is bracing for what could be a powerful Category 4 Hurricane Ian at landfall on Wednesday before the storm tracks northeast toward the Orlando metropolitan area.
The last time Orlando took a direct hit from a hurricane was Charley back in 2004, which maintained a Category 1 status as it swept over Orange County. However, Hurricane Charley was a much smaller and fast-moving storm, compared to Hurricane Ian which is much larger and slower.
"We face flooding, a very serious flooding risk," said FOX 35 Meteorologist Brooks Garner. "This may be a legacy of the storm and also very strong winds lasting through Thursday."
Much of Central Florida is now under a Hurricane Warning, which means hurricane conditions are expected by late Wednesday. Like Hurricane Charley, Ian could possibly make landfall around Charlotte County on Wednesday afternoon and be near Orlando by Thursday afternoon.
"This track should keep a lot of water out of Tampa Bay," Garner added. "Although Tampa Bay may still get some storm surge, it wouldn't be as severe."
Given this similar track to Hurricane Charley and the damage that historic storm caused Central Florida, we invited the Acting Director of the National Hurricane Center Jamie Rhome to answer a few questions.
WHAT MAKES HURRICANE IAN SO DANGEROUS?
"The difference here is Ian is very large, whereas Charley was a very compact system. Also, Charlie really zipped across the state, whereas Ian is just going to crawl across the state… which increases flood risk" said Rhome, "so that slow forward speed is just going to dump a lot of rain along the projected path."
HAS CENTRAL FLORIDA SEEN ANYTHING LIKE HURRICANE IAN BEFORE?
"Some people may have experienced a hurricane of this magnitude, but certainly you haven't if you are new to the state, and we have a lot of new residents that have moved down over the last couple of years who have never seen anything like this," Rhome explained, emphasizing that the region is at high-risk for very heavy rain and extensive flooding along the Interstate 4 corridor.
HOW SERIOUS IS THE FLOOD THREAT FROM HURRICANE IAN?
"We're at the end of the rainy season here in Florida. The grounds are already saturated," Rhome explained. "You dump this kind of rain on it and then put strong winds through it, and then what you're looking at is a high potential for trees to be uprooted, fall down, take out power lines, block roads, then the roads are going to be flooded by the heavy rains. I don't think people appreciate just how long they're going to need to stay put."
"As you make your final preparations this evening and first thing tomorrow, think about what you need for the next several days because this is not going to be in and out quickly," Rhome added, "and even once it does pass, I'm not sure conditions are going to be safe for people to move about for quite some time."