Hurricane Ian’s effects: Storm surge floods areas of Key West, threatens coastal structures

Key West International airport, port, Monroe schools close

Flooding and tropical storm force wind gusts of up to 50 mph were affecting residents on Wednesday in the Florida Keys, as Hurricane Ian moved west-northwest of Naples.

KEY WEST, Fla. – Flooding remained a concern for residents on Wednesday in some areas of the Florida Keys as Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida’s Cayo Costa as a Category 4 storm.

Storm surge flooded areas of Key West, where the airport and the port closed. Monroe County Public Schools also closed. Officials turned Key West High School into a shelter for 118 people.

Josh Martin, a Conch Republic resident, who is used to stormy weather, said Ian’s effects overnight felt stronger than usual. Ian, he said, was too close for comfort.

“It was picking up a little more than I thought ... We checked the storm tracker to see how close we were to the eye and we were like, ‘It is starting to look pretty nasty!’”

The sky was gray and there was flooding and debris in areas that are usually full of tourists. The U.S. Postal Service announced a temporary suspension of services.

A residential parking lot flooded on Tuesday night in Key West. (Courtesy photo)

There were drivers who were stranded in flooded streets Tuesday, but on Wednesday some residents felt safe enough to remove their shutters from their windows.

Steve Dykstra, a tourist who was exploring Duval Street, the heart of the island city, said he was concerned about the damage that he was going to see. There wasn’t much.

“It was really wild out there. The trees were just swinging,” Dykstra said about Tuesday night.

Several transformers blew up overnight. Officials reported there were thousands of customers without power in the Lower Keys and asked residents to stay away from downed or low-hanging powerlines.

FLOOD THREAT CONTINUES

This GOES-East GeoColor satellite image taken at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, and provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows the eye of Hurricane Ian approaching the southwest coast of Florida. (NOAA via AP)

The Key West Police Department released a warning: “Standing water is hazardous. Downed power lines and contaminants could be life-threatening. Please avoid walking in the water.”

Meteorologists warned that storm surge damage to ground-story buildings, marinas, docks, boardwalks, and piers is still possible.

A storm surge warning — to indicate a danger of life-threatening inundation of up to four feet — was in effect from Key West to Big Pine Key.

With the King Tide, meteorologists warned the highest storm surge in the Middle Keys will be on Wednesday afternoon, and in the Upper Keys’ bayside areas on Thursday and Friday.

The National Weather Service Key West warned tornadoes and an additional four inches of rain were possible through Thursday.

Businesses and residents of homes in the lower elevation areas of the middle and upper Florida Keys, from Marathon to Ocean Reef, are at risk for up to three feet of storm surge.

The Dry Tortugas National Park was no longer under a hurricane warning

Florida Keys watches and warnings

  • Storm surge and tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Lower Keys
  • Tropical storm warning and storm surge watch are in effect for the Middle Keys and the Upper Keys

Interactive map

Also in Key West: Key West building fire during storm destroys businesses, apartments

Torres contributed to this report from Miami.


About the Authors:

Roy Ramos joined the Local 10 News team in 2018. Roy is a South Florida native who grew up in Florida City. He attended Christopher Columbus High School, Homestead Senior High School and graduated from St. Thomas University.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.