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Central Florida could see a direct hit from Hurricane Ian, as it crosses the state

Map: Florida Storms/FPREN
Map: Florida Storms/FPREN

As Hurricane Ian barreled toward Southwest Florida Tuesday, the official forecast track turned directly across Central Florida.

On Thursday evening, the eye of Ian — by then a tropical storm — could be strandling the Lake and Orange county line, according to the National Hurricane Center.

But the impacts — high winds, prolonged flooding rains and, possibly, tornadoes — will likely have been pounding Central Florida for a full day by then.

Heavy rainfall is expected throughout Central Florida. Sumter, Marion and Lake counties could see 10 to 15 inches of rain.

Tropical storm force winds are forecast in Central Florida by 8 p.m. but could arrive as earlier as 8 a.m., according to the hurricane center.

As of 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, a tropical storm warning was in effect for Marion, Volusia and Brevard counties.

A hurricane watch was for effect for Lake, Seminole and Osceola; and hurricane warning for Polk County.

In Polk County, the forecast is for winds of 55-75 mph, with gusts up to 95 mph. Hurricane force winds could begin Thursday afternoon.

The forecast for Lake County includes winds of 50 to 70 mph, with gusts of 85 mph. In Orange County, peak winds of 55-65 mph and gusts of 80 mph, were expected.

Other Central Florida counties could have peak winds ranging from 30 to 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Orlando International Airport is halting commercial flights after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday because of the storm. The airport announced that travelers should contact their airline if they have questions about how this impacts their flights. Orlando Sanford International Airport is canceling flights Wednesday and Thursday.

Disney announced that the Disney World theme parks in Orlando will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. Disney Springs will be closed Wednesday and likely on Thursday, too.

Across Central Florida, counties were closing schools, handing out sandbags and opening shelters.

Osceola County Emergency Manager Bill Litton said residents had the rest of Tuesday to make preparations for Hurricane Ian.

“We will start seeing the impacts of the tropical force winds by 8 a.m. tomorrow,” he said during a Tuesday press conference. “And those will not be subsiding till early morning on Friday morning. We will be asking all of our residents to stay off the roads and shelter in place for both Wednesday and Thursday for their safety.”

He urged residents in flood-prone areas to evacuate.

Sumter County recommended evacuation for residents in manufactured homes and flood-prone areas and those who have special needs or feel unsafe by themselves.

Emergency Management Director David Casto said evacuees should find refuge with a friend or family member in a safer home.

“If no other options are available, go to one of the local shelters only as a last option,” he said in a prepared statement.

Brevard County officials are urging residents to get ready for a major rain event.

In Volusia County, the county chairman, Jeff Brown, said he expects major flooding and that residents should be prepared to stay put after the storm until it’s safe to travel.

“It’s not safe to travel the roads when you can’t see the road you don’t know what debris is under the water or what condition the road is in,” he said.

WMFE reporters Brendan Byrne and Danielle Prieur contributed to this article.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Joe Byrnes