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5 Things to Know: A Look at the Proposed Medicaid Eligibility & Enrollment Rule

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On August 31, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released a proposed rule designed to make it easier for eligible people to obtain and maintain coverage in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Together, Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage to 89 million low-income people. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made significant changes to help simplify, streamline, and coordinate eligibility and enrollment across health programs, especially for children and adults, but complexities remain, and some eligible people are not enrolled or churn on and off the program. While there are broad eligibility and enrollment rules, states administer the Medicaid program and there is considerable variation in eligibility, enrollment, and renewal policies. The proposed rule would create more uniform processes across states and are in line with the Biden Administration’s focus on strengthening coverage and access. While Medicaid eligibility is complex and the proposed rule contains many provisions, this policy watch highlights some of the most notable changes.

1. The proposed rule enhances timeliness requirements for state eligibility determinations and creates new requirements for states when they receive returned mail.

Existing rules specify that states are required to determine eligibility for Medicaid within 90 days for those applying on the basis of disability and 45 days for other applicants, but timeframes are not provided for when applicants need to provide additional information at renewal and for changes in circumstances. The proposed rule creates uniform requirements to help ensure applicants have sufficient time to submit required documentation to states at application, renewal and when changes in circumstances are reported. The proposed rule also specifies that states must check available data sources, conduct outreach using different modalities, and try to obtain forwarding address information before moving to terminate enrollees from coverage due to returned mail.

Data show that 1 in 10 Medicaid enrollees may disenroll and then re-enroll in Medicaid within one year (churn). Data also suggest that states implementing periodic eligibility checks between renewals may have contributed to Medicaid enrollment declines prior to the pandemic. Eligible individuals are at risk for losing coverage if they do not receive or understand forms requesting information to verify eligibility or do not respond to states’ requests within required timeframes. While many states have policies in place to conduct follow-up on returned mail, some states may disenroll individuals if mail is returned.

2. The proposed rule simplifies enrollment and renewal policies for people who are age 65 or older or have disabilities, many of whom are also enrolled in Medicare.

The ACA simplified eligibility processes for children and adults under age 65 who are not eligible on account of a disability. Eligibility for those populations depends on applicants’ Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) on their tax returns. The ACA established renewal requirements, such as using pre-populated renewal forms and conducting renewals on an annual basis. (A required renewal process on an annual basis is not the same as 12-month continuous eligibility, where enrollment is guaranteed for a year even if there are changes in income that have to be reported.) The proposed rule would apply similar simplified processes for people who are eligible because of a disability or being age 65 or older (referred to as “non-MAGI” populations because eligibility is not determined using MAGI).  A recent survey shows that all but one state (West Virginia) conduct annual renewals for non-MAGI populations, but 15 do not use pre-populated renewal forms.

The proposed rule would also make significant changes to the eligibility determination process for two specific groups of beneficiaries: those who are considered “medically needy” and those who are eligible for the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), which provide coverage of Medicare premiums and in some cases, cost sharing, through the Medicaid program.

  • In the 34 states that offer a Medically Needy or spend-down pathway, people who are considered “medically needy” must show that they meet Medicaid income eligibility requirements after deducting health care expenses. Individuals living in institutions are currently allowed to project their future spending for the purposes of determining eligibility. The proposed rule would extend the same flexibility to some enrollees living in home and community settings.
  • People who are eligible for MSP are also eligible for Medicare’s Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) for prescription drug coverage and the proposed rule would leverage LIS eligibility and enrollment data to streamline the MSP enrollment process. Integrating those systems could increase enrollment as data show that over 1.1 million people were enrolled in LIS and eligible for—but not enrolled in—MSP. Changes include ensuring that applications for LIS also are treated as applications for MSP, encouraging states to use the definitions of income and wealth that are used for determining LIS eligibility (which tend to be higher than the MSP income and wealth limits), and auto-enrolling LIS applicants who are receiving Supplemental Security Income.

3. The proposed rule also prohibits some policies that may be enrollment barriers for children in CHIP.

The proposed rule would eliminate waiting periods (or periods of uninsurance), coverage lockouts for failure to pay premiums, and annual or lifetime caps on benefits for children enrolled in separate CHIP (S-CHIP) programs. These policies are not permitted in Medicaid or other insurance affordability programs. Prior to the start of the pandemic, 13 states required waiting periods in S-CHIP of one month to 90 days, but two states have since eliminated their waiting periods. Additionally, prior to the pandemic, 14 states imposed a lockout period, usually 90 days, for failure to pay premiums. The proposed rule would also streamline processes to facilitate transitions between Medicaid and CHIP by requiring Medicaid and S-CHIP to accept eligibility determinations made by the other program, to develop procedures for each program to accept electronic transfers of information, and to provide combined notices for transitions between Medicaid and S-CHIP.

4. When fully implemented, the proposed rule is expected to increase coverage (and costs tied to new coverage) but reduce administrative costs and burden.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that the rule would increase the number of person years of enrollment (a measure that calculates the number of new months of enrollment divided by 12) by nearly 3-million-person years after it is fully implemented in 2027 (Figure 1). The biggest source of new enrollment (1.5 million new person years) is due to changes made to eligibility processes for non-MAGI enrollees. Another 1.3 million new enrollment years come from changes relating to timeliness and returned mail policies that affect all Medicaid enrollees, and the final 0.1 million come from changes to the CHIP program.

The proposed rule estimates increased costs tied to Medicaid and CHIP enrollment gains of $23 billion in 2027 ($14.1 billion in federal funds and $9.1 in state funds), two-thirds of which results from changes affecting all Medicaid enrollees ($15.3 billion), Changes to non-MAGI rules account for $7.4 billion and the remaining $0.4 billion stems from changes to the CHIP program. In that year, CMS also estimates $2.6 billion in new Medicare spending, $4.0 billion in savings on subsidies provided through ACA marketplace coverage, and $1.2 billion in savings from lower administrative costs and improvements to program integrity. The estimated change in federal spending in 2027 would be $12.8 billion.

Estimates of increased coverage and costs are highly uncertain largely because it is hard to predict how states and people will respond to the new policies. It is also difficult to estimate how many people are eligible for, but not enrolled, in Medicaid and CHIP currently, particularly among people eligible for Medicaid on the basis of disability or being age 65 or older.

5. Looking ahead, CMS is seeking comments about how the proposed changes would intersect with the unwinding of the Public Health Emergency (PHE).

As CMS finalizes provisions in the rule sometime next year, implementation of the rule could coincide with the unwinding of the PHE. The Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement, which has been in place during the PHE, prevents states from disenrolling people from Medicaid; however, once the PHE ends, states will need to conduct redeterminations and renewals for all enrollees for the first time in over two years. CMS acknowledges that imposing these new requirements on states during the unwinding period following the end of the PHE could be challenging, even if the long-term effects are to make it easier for eligible individuals to enroll and retain coverage. In addition, recognizing states will need to make systems changes, and in some cases, legislative changes to comply with the requirements, CMS indicates it is considering an effective date 30 days following publication of the final rule while providing states with 12 months to come into full compliance. The agency seeks comment on the reasonableness of this timeframe.



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Rep. Norcross’s Legislation To Ensure Health Plans Adequately Cover Mental Health Passes House – InsuranceNewsNet

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — Rep. Donald W. Norcross, D-New Jersey, issued the following news release:

U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) released the following statement regarding his Parity Enforcement Act, which passed the House today as part of the Mental Heal Matters Act.

“The law says health insurance companies need to provide parity in mental health coverage, but the reality is that many insurers don’t,” said Congressman Norcross. “My Parity Enforcement Act gives the Department of Labor teeth to enforce the law, which will help keep health plans honest and get patients the services they need. Mental health takes many forms, but no one can tell me that your state of mind is less important than the rest of your bodily health.”

“Every day, we have patients who lack access to mental health services because insurers fail to comply with the federal mental health parity law,” said AMA President Jack Resneck Jr., MD. “The Labor Department is ideally situated to help make sure that employee-sponsored health plans respond to the law and patient needs. Mental health services are needed more than ever to deal with the combination of Covid and the continued drug overdose epidemic, and we appreciate that Rep. Norcross has offered a solution. We will support him as he works to pass this life-saving legislation.”

Background

In 2008, Congress began requiring mental health parity via the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which required insurance plans to provide the same level of coverage for mental health and substance use disorders that they provide for physical health conditions. The problem is that the law cannot be adequately enforced for the millions of employees that receive health insurance through their employer.

Currently, the Department of Labor (DOL) is only able to require employers to reimburse their workers after there are parity violations in their self-funded insurance plans. However, DOL cannot act against the insurance company that is offering the insurance plan. That leaves DOL with no front-end enforcement mechanism to ensure there’s compliance with existing mental health and substance-use parity requirements.

The Parity Enforcement Act gives the U.S. Department of Labor an enforcement mechanism to hold health insurers and plan sponsors accountable for offering health plans that violate the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

The legislative language of the Parity Enforcement Act was added to a larger mental health care package – the Mental Health Matters Act (H.R. 7780). That larger package passed the House on September 28, 2022, delivering to the DOL the enforcement authority it needs to hold health insurance companies accountable.

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Original text here: https://norcross.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-norcross-s-legislation-ensure-health-plans-adequately-cover-mental





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Insurance rates are set to skyrocket in Florida after Hurricane Ian – InsuranceNewsNet

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Hurricane Ian is expected to undermine the already precarious market for property insurance in Florida, supercharging premiums and exposing gaps in coverage.

This article is available to INNsider Pro subscribers only. Sign in or register to be an INNsider Pro and access all locked articles.





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For Powell, fighting inflation might mean sinking the world

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Editor’s note: Morning Money is a free version of POLITICO Pro Financial Services morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 5:15 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has learned to accept that fighting inflation comes with collateral damage. At this point, it also means unleashing hell on the global economy.

The Fed’s aggressive push to bring down prices and cool overheated U.S. markets is wreaking havoc on similar efforts under way at central banks across Europe, Asia and the developing world, write our Victoria Guida and Johanna Treeck.

From Victoria and Johanna: “Powell’s actions have caused a flood of money to flee the shores of other countries for safer American investments that offer a much more attractive payoff because the U.S. now has its highest interest rates since 2008. A stronger dollar means the cost for Europeans of heating their homes and powering their cities, already driven sky high by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is getting even greater. And smaller developing countries could begin to drown in ever-more-burdensome debt payments…

“Most central bankers, too, are locked in their own fights with inflation, so they understand the Fed’s resolve; indeed, price stability in the U.S. also benefits the rest of the world. But with the heightened threat of global recession, one of the largest risks looming from the Fed’s actions is that other central banks might soon feel pressure to cut rates as their economies contract. They’ll have a harder time doing so, however, because that would drive even more precious capital to American markets.

‘We might enter a phase in which we run the risk, just because of the fear of financial volatility, of going against the Fed,” said Alejandro Werner, a former official of the Mexican government and of the International Monetary Fund. “Central banks in Latin America and other emerging markets could be much more cautious in loosening their monetary policy stance and inject some additional recessionary forces.”

The Fed is certainly paying attention to all of this, but it likely won’t have much bearing on what it does next.

“Will that stay the Fed’s hand? Probably not,” Steven Kamin, who led the Fed board’s international finance division until 2020, told Victoria. “They’re pretty single-mindedly focused on inflation.”

It’s not as though Powell & Co’s work is about to get any easier. The Commerce Department will release its monthly report on consumer prices this morning and the consensus is that inflation is still white hot.

Economists estimate core inflation — which excludes energy and food prices — jumped by 0.5 percent in August, a big spike compared to the 0.1 percent increase notched in July. Year-over-year core inflation is expected to have risen 4.7 percent last month, up from 4.6 percent for the 12 months ending in July.

The Fed signaled last week that it’s on track to push the federal funds rate well above 4 percent by the end of the year. If Commerce’s personal consumption expenditures data reflects those estimates — it’s the Fed’s preferred metric for measuring inflation — there will be even less incentive for Powell to soften his stance.

That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the world, according to EY Parthenon Chief Economist Gregory Daco.

“Elevated global financial market volatility, plunging currencies and surging bond yields are important considerations for policymakers to weigh in the context of this historic tightening cycle as it could lead to a much sharper global economic slowdown than currently priced in,” Daco wrote in a note on Thursday. “Lest we forget, the US economy is not immune to global waves of uncertainty, as these often wash up on US shores.”

IT’S FRIDAY — And Barry Bonds is still the one true home run king. What else should we be writing about? Send us your tips, story ideas, questions or feedback at [email protected] and [email protected].

Personal income, spending and inflation data released at 8:30 a.m. … Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard speaks at 9 a.m. … Fed Governor Michelle Bowman speaks at 11 a.m. … New York Fed President John Williams speaks at 4:15 p.m.

HURRICANE IAN — Our Myah Ward, Andrew Atterbury and Kelly Hooper: “President Joe Biden on Thursday said there are early reports that Tropical Storm Ian caused substantial loss of life in Florida, as state and federal officials continued to help thousands of people affected by the catastrophic storm. ‘This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history,’ Biden said during a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing. He added that he’ll be visiting Florida soon.”

— The economic consequences will be severe as well. Our Thomas Frank and Daniel Cusick: “Hurricane Ian’s path of destruction cut through some of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, pulverizing communities whose populations have doubled and tripled in recent decades during a period of deceptive atmospheric calm … The storm will expose a wide range of vulnerabilities in the nation’s most hurricane-prone state including a failing property insurance market, a widespread lack of flood insurance and breakneck development.”

THE GOVERNMENT IS STILL FUNDED Our Caitlin Emma and Marianne Levine: “The Senate approved a stopgap spending bill on Thursday afternoon that funds the government through mid-December, sending it to the House and likely averting a government shutdown that would hit in less than 48 hours.”

STOCK BAN — Our Declan Harty: “A vote on legislation to ban members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and Federal Reserve governors from stock trading is not expected to happen before the midterms, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Thursday.”

FED UP WITH CLIMATE CHANGE — Also from Victoria Guida: “The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced that six large banks will participate in a pilot program designed to test their exposure to theoretical consequences from climate change, the Fed’s first big step toward analyzing the financial fallout of a warming planet.”

Environmental advocates are generally supportive, with The Sierra Club’s Adele Shraiman calling the pilot a “promising first step in the urgent effort to rein in Wall Street’s dangerous and reckless behavior and protect our financial system from a climate-driven economic crash.”

Republicans are less enthused: “The Fed’s new ‘pilot’ program is the first step toward pressuring banks into limiting loans to and investments in traditional energy companies and other disfavored carbon-emitting sectors,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said in a statement.

SPEAKING OF TOOMEY — From Sam: “Top Republicans led by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow sponsors of 401(k) plans to let their workers put retirement savings in alternative assets like private equity, real estate and crypto.”

— Hours later, the Senate confirmed Lisa Gomez to head the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which our Nick Niedzwiadek reports has “at times drawn fire from conservatives and financial firms for its actions. More recently it has tangled with Fidelity and other businesses over offering cryptocurrency investment options.”

GRADE YOUR OWN WORK — Declan Harty again: “Deloitte’s Chinese affiliate has agreed to pay $20 million to settle charges by the SEC that it failed to comply with fundamental U.S. audit requirements, an action that officials say underscores the need for American authorities to have more oversight of audits conducted overseas.”

SHELL GAMES — And more from Victoria: “The Treasury Department on Thursday finalized rules that require businesses to disclose ownership information to the government, a move years in the making that’s aimed at cracking down on money laundering through anonymous shell companies.”

THE FED RATE ELEVATOR — Bloomberg’s Catarina Saraiva and Jonnelle Marte: “Federal Reserve officials reiterated Thursday that they will keep raising interest rates to restrain high inflation, and that markets are now understanding the message. ‘If you look at the dots, it does look like the committee is expecting a fair amount of additional moves this year,’ St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told a virtual emerging-market forum, referring to the bank’s so-called dot plot of projections.”

NOTHING TO SEE HERE — Bloomberg’s Craig Torres: “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has deflected requests from a top critic, Senator Elizabeth Warren, for details of financial transactions by central bank officials, risking an escalation of tensions with lawmakers over disclosure issues.”

HOUSING ON ICE — WSJ’s Charley Grant: “Mortgage rates rose to their highest level in more than 15 years, a new high since the 2008-09 financial crisis that adds pressure to the already cooling U.S. housing market. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage climbed to 6.7%, according to a survey of lenders released Thursday by Freddie Mac.”

D’OH! — POLITICO’s Michael Stratford: “The Biden administration is curtailing its sweeping student debt relief program for several million Americans … The Education Department will no longer allow borrowers with privately held federal student loans to receive loan forgiveness under the administration’s plan, according to guidance updated on the agency’s website Thursday.”

BANKING — The Committee for Better Banks has published new interactive research indicating that the physical expansion plans of the 14 largest retail banks have largely avoided low-to-moderate income and minority communities.

COIN OF THE REALM — Protocol’s Benjamin Pimental asked Binance CEO and co-founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao about the crypto exchange’s decision to convert their customers’ Circle’s USDC stablecoin holdings to a different dollar-pegged token that’s issued by Paxos – called Binance USD. “We were in communication with Circle. We notified them ahead of time. They were okay with it. It was just the messaging. Many people misunderstood the messaging,” Zhang said.

Pimental then checked in with Circle: “In an interview with Protocol, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire confirmed that Binance ‘did disclose to us their intentions.’ But he also said, ‘They unilaterally took customers’ funds and then moved them into something else. And I think that’s really problematic.’”

A persistent economic puzzle is why labor is still so tight amid slowing growth, high inflation and growing fears of recession. — WSJ’s Sarah Chaney Cambon

The dollar’s relentless risethreatens to wipe $60 billion in sales from the biggest US firms. Two weeks from earnings season, investors are sticking around to find out what that means for corporate America’s bottom lines. — Bloomberg’s Emily Graffeo

US authorities have charged Russian metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska and his associates for violating sanctions imposed by Washington. — FT’s Stefania Palma



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Despite legislative standstill, Massachusetts auto body labor rate bill remains alive

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A Massachusetts proposal to force insurers to raise Massachusetts’ lowest-in-the-nation auto body labor rate remains alive, even though the $4.6 billion governor’s economic development and tax relief bill that contains the language addressing the labor reimbursement rate has been stalled in a House-Senate conference committee.

Because the bill hasn’t progressed since July, when the formal legislative session expired, “some people think that the bill is dead, but it’s not, not by any stretch,” Evangelos “Lucky” Papageorg, executive director of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Massachusetts (AASP-MA), told Repairer Driven News.

Lawmakers temporarily shelved the economic development bill after state Auditor Suzanne Bump certified that the state must return nearly $3 billion to taxpayers under a 1986 voter-approved law limiting property tax rates.

Legislative leaders signaled earlier this month that they will try to rework the economic development bill into a $1.6 billion fiscal year 2022 closeout budget, according to State House News Service. Bump has certified that the state can afford that amount, in addition to the $3 billion in tax refunds.

Technically, lawmakers have until the end of the year to approve some form of the legislation. Realistically, they’re considered unlikely to do so before the November elections.

The task of the conference committee, composed of three state senators and three state representatives, is to iron out differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill. One of those differences is a version of the auto body labor rate bill, formerly known as House 1111, which is included in the Senate version.

Papageorg said he believes that the bill will be passed before the end of the current calendar year, and forwarded to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker for approval.

“There are so many agencies and segments of the state that are affected by that bill. It’s huge,” he said. “There’s no way it’s not going to be addressed before the end of the year.”

He said AASP-MA and its members are continuing to lobby legislators on behalf of the bill, and “we have been informed our efforts are having an effect. The opposition has also been trying, through robocalls and things of that nature, to spur on their opposition to that language.” That opposition includes the state’s auto insurers.

The legislation would set a minimum hourly labor rate of $55, the first significant increase in more than three decades. The labor reimbursement rate paid by the state’s auto insurers has only risen from $30 to the current average of $40 over that 30-plus-year period.

The bill would also create an “auto body labor rate
 advisory board” within the state’s Division of Insurance, which would make annual recommendations to the insurance commissioner. The commissioner would be required to set a “minimum hourly rate that insurers shall pay” within 30 days of the advisory board’s report.

The board, which would meet twice a year, would include one representative each of the commissioner of insurance, the attorney general, and the director of the division of standards; three members from the auto insurance industry appointed by the Automobile Insurers Bureau of Massachusetts; three members from the auto
 repair industry appointed by the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Massachusetts (AASP-MA), and one member appointed by the Massachusetts State Automobile
 Dealers Association.

One member each from the insurance and repair industries would serve as co-chair. They would choose four additional members: one from a vocational-technical school, two from consumer advocacy groups, and one economist with expertise in the insurance industry.

The Senate language incorporated portions of HB 1111 and several similar bills that had been endorsed by the Special Commission on Auto Body Labor Rates in its final report to the Legislature. The commission was formed in late 2021 to address the state’s stagnant labor rate, and examine its effect on consumers, and on the collision repair and insurance industries.

The special commission found that auto body labor rates “must be addressed,” and declared that maintaining the status quo is “not a viable option.”

Under HB 1111, minimum adjustment rates paid by carriers to their insureds would be raised to account for nearly 30 years of inflation with the new rates phased in over two years. It would then be adjusted each year based on the consumer price index for the Northeast Region.

More information

300 repairers demonstrate against Massachusetts’ lowest-in-the-nation labor rate

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Featured image: The cover of the final report of the Special Commission on Auto Body Labor Rates, adopted in April by a 10-3 vote. Only the panel’s three insurance industry representatives gave it an unfavorable recommendation. (Dave LaChance/Repairer Driven News)

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Blind climate activists Danny and Sam Noonan

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There have been numerous [trolling] posts about Sam – things like, “The one on the left is blind. Run her down. She won’t see you coming.”

This cause can take over your life. Hence us, a couple with blindness, staying in a share house in Sydney for months [with other activists] earlier this year. It was more difficult for us, not being in our own house, but we have to do what we can to get governments to act.

“There have been numerous [trolling] posts about Sam – things like, ‘The one on the left is blind. Run her down. She won’t see you coming.’ ”

We both suffer from depression and anxiety. There’s a much higher rate among people with a disability, partly because of the stigma, but it also goes along with climate anxiety and watching the National Disability Insurance Scheme and things like that being dismantled. Still, I think we’re in a better place now than we have been for a long time. At least we’re giving something a go.

Sam and Danny during one of their sit-ins.

Sam: Danny was one of those cheeky boys as a kid and I was a goody-two-shoes. When I met him again when we were older, there was an obvious attraction, but he also used to embarrass the hell out of me because he’s very mouthy. It took him a while to realise people are willing to like him if he just shows himself as he is. He tends to come across as a bit full of it and swaggery, but it’s a cover-up.

Danny calls himself “the Catholic surprise”; he arrived eight years after the third child in his family. He has an older brother who’s also blind from the same condition [retinitis pigmentosa] and another with a severe intellectual disability.

When we had children, we found other people’s attitudes more challenging than the children themselves – other people doubting our abilities, or the way we’d do things. And the amount of times we’d cross the road with a two- or three-year-old and someone would say to them, “Isn’t it lovely you’re helping Mummy and Daddy cross the road!” We were like, “Seriously? Would you let a toddler judge when you should cross the frickin’ road?”

“Danny is the person I can be myself around. He’s dealt with me putting knives to my throat and carrying on like a drama queen.”

People meant well, but they unwittingly put too much responsibility on the kids. We wanted the kids to be kids, not helping us all the time.

I know Danny found it difficult when we had the first baby and I had post-natal depression and people were hovering. At least I could cry and get sympathy, whereas he would just get stressed and aggro. As he’s got older, he has sometimes said things like, “I was a shit father.” I say, “No, you’ve made mistakes, but so have I.”

Our oldest child went off the rails for a couple of years, which was hard. I have had bouts of depression and got frustrated at life. Danny is the person I can be myself around. He’s seen me try to drown myself in the bath. He’s dealt with me putting knives to my throat and carrying on like a drama queen. He’s seen all that and talked me out of it.

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I really wasn’t political until 2019, although Danny was. It was after ScoMo won the election and after going to climate strikes and seeing quite young children there. I thought, “These little ones are standing up and trying to get the grown-ups to listen, so some of us need to be listening, and doing something.” I know some people find our [civil disobedience] tactics annoying, but it’s a last resort, like sounding a fire alarm. Without it, you wouldn’t know there was an emergency.

When you’re new to something, you throw yourself in and think you can change everything straight away, then realise you can’t. There’s a risk of burnout. Danny tends to read everything and get anxious. My answer is to turn anger into action: “I’m going to lock onto a coal mine and it will stop it for an hour” – and that’s really satisfying.



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US individual life premiums rise 2.5% YOY in Q2 as post-pandemic gains continue

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Continuing a post-COVID-19 growth in demand, U.S. life insurers’ direct individual life premiums increased 2.5% year over year in the second quarter to $41.37 billion.

However, direct group life premiums decreased 3.0% to $9.85 billion from $10.15 billion a year earlier.

Combined, individual and group direct premiums amounted to $51.21 billion in the second quarter, up slightly from $50.49 billion in the prior-year period but down from $52.26 billion in the first quarter. The Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, which conducts quarterly surveys of life insurance companies, said indexed universal life and variable universal life sales drove overall premium growth in the second quarter.

MetLife sees largest group decline

Among the top 10 largest U.S. group life underwriters, MetLife Inc. recorded the steepest drop in group life premiums as they fell 9.2% to $2.89 billion. Despite that decline, MetLife remained the largest provider of group insurance premiums.

In an August earnings call, MetLife President Ramy Tadros said the year-to-date drop in sales was “very much a function” of the record year the insurer experienced in 2021.

Written premiums also declined year over year for the second-largest group insurer, Prudential Financial Inc., falling 3.3% to $1.14 billion. Seven of the top 10 largest group life underwriters saw gains.

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SNL Image * Read more about life market share during the first quarter of 2022.

Protective leads individual market

Among the top 10 largest individual life insurance underwriters, Protective Life Corp., saw the largest year-over-year change, growing its individual premiums by 58.8%, followed by Lincoln National Corp., whose individual premiums grew by 12.3%.

Protective entered into the bank-owned life insurance/company-owned life insurance, or BOLI/COLI, business in 2019 after acquiring Great-West Lifeco Inc.’s U.S. life and annuity business. According to Protective’s supplemental schedules for the first and second quarters, the company’s BOLI/COLI sales totaled $1.35 billion in the first half of 2022, up from $519 million in the first half of 2021.

Three of the top 10 largest individual life insurance underwriters saw a year-over-year decline in individual premiums, the largest of which was an 11.4% decline in the second quarter of 2022 for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.

New York Life Insurance Co. and John Hancock Life Insurance Co. (USA) also declined year over year, falling 7.5% and 5.2% respectively.

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Orlando airport resuming operations Friday

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Live updates will be posted here regarding the impacts of Hurricane Ian on our region.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s CEO Kevin Thibault said the Orlando International Airport will resume passenger flights Friday afternoon after an assessment of the property found little to minor damage.

GOAA ceased commercial operations on Wednesday out of an abundance of caution pending the arrival of Hurricane Ian.

Thibault said airport crew members inspected the area and are working to remove water buildup in order to resume operations by tomorrow afternoon.

They inspected the airfield, airside property, gate and terminal links (trams), landside facilities and roads to ensure safe passage for buses and cars, an announcement said.

Travelers are being advised to arrive at the airport for their departure after 10 a.m. to give enough time for airport workers and partners to prepare. Those wishing to adjust their flight should check with their individual airlines and rental car companies as many are adjusting their schedules and adding relief flights over the weekend.

Amanda Rabines

Disney, the first to announce its reopening plan around 2:45 p.m. Thursday, also unveiled its reopening times for Friday.

At Magic Kingdom, early entry time is at 8 a.m. with general admission at 10 a.m. Early opening time at Epcot is at 9 a.m. with the park opening to all guests at 11 a.m. Early entry times at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively, with general admission open two hours later. Reservations are needed.

Disney Springs will be open from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

First responders have conducted about 700 confirmed rescues of people put in peril by Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday evening.

The majority of those rescues were done in areas hit hardest by the storm including Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. The rescues were conducted by air, sea and via high water vehicles, DeSantis said.

Still, DeSantis said he expected more deaths from the storm. He declined to give a number of deaths so far, saying the figure was still being tallied.

Unofficially, at least 11 deaths have been reported.

Emergency management chief Kevin Guthrie said further deaths can be avoided if residents steer clear of power lines and using equipment such as chainsaws if they don’t know how to use them.

David Harris

The barricaded perimeter around Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs wasn’t the only thing stopping curious neighbors from entering after Hurricane Ian dropped a massive amount of rain over Central Florida Wednesday evening.

The lake was overflowing by Thursday covering most of the park and its paved one-mile-long walkway with a layer of floodwater that stretched all the way to the corner entrance on East Central Parkway and Festival Drive.

By Thursday evening as Hurricane Ian moved off Florida’s East Coast and strengthened again, the park was left with the wreckage it caused the night before.

Massive amounts of debris covered the upland areas.

Cranes Roost Lake’s water levels reached above the boardwalks that hover over the lake and connect pedestrians to the walkways on land. Water covered most of the stadium-style seating that fronts the Eddie Rose Amphitheater – making it look more like the floating amphitheater it was originally designed to be.

Altamonte Springs City Manager Frank Martz was not immediately available to respond to questions about drainage procedure.

Earlier Thursday morning an emergency executive order in Altamonte Springs enforced a strict 5 mph speed limit on certain roads, including Central Parkway and Cranes Roost Boulevard, due to severe flooding.

Amanda Rabines

Rainfall levels along Ian’s trajectory reached from 14 to nearly 17 inches as the storm moved from coastal counties such as Sarasota inland to Orange, Osceola, and Polk Counties, even leaving more than 14 inches on the east coast’s Brevard and Volusia Counties.

About 20 miles north of the storm’s landfall, the seaside town of Nokomis in Sarasota County was slammed with 14.20 inches of rain. In Polk County, just inland, Ian’s fury left 16.99 inches on Lake Wales, about midway between Sebring and Orlando.

Osceola County’s town of Campbell as inundated with 15.65 inches, and in Orange County, Orlando was hit with 14.37 inches and Union Park, about 10 miles east of Orlando, received 14.88 inches.

As the storm progressed northeast, it dumped 16.14 inches on Seminole County’s Lake Mary and 15.11 inches in Winter Springs.

Ian maintained wind up to 81 mph as it reached the east coast’s Brevard County, where Titusville was hit with 14.07 inches of rain and the Nasa Shuttle Facility received 14.45 inches.

In Volusia County just to the south, New Smyrna Beach got slammed with 15.42 inches.

Bill Kearney

Universal Orlando will begin reopening in phases to hotel guests only Friday, according to the resort.

“We continue to conduct assessment and recovery efforts across our entire destination with the safety of guests and team members being our top priority,” the resort said in a statement.

Universal began recalling employees to work Thursday night, according to its employee website. Before publicly announcing the phased resort reopening Thursday, Universal told employees scheduled for Friday they should be prepared to work.

Katie Rice

As Hurricane Ian leaves the state, 2.6 million people were without power as of Thursday evening, according to poweroutage.us.

The majority of those outages were in southwest Florida where the storm made landfall Wednesday afternoon. Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier Thursday described the area, particularly Charlotte and Lee counties, as “off the grid.” Charlotte has 112,000 of 127,000 customers out while Lee has 412,000 customers out of the 471,000. In Collier County, 196,000 out of out of the 262,000 customers are out.

As far as Central Florida:

Orange: About 209,000 out of 603,000 customers are without power.

Osceola: 19,000 out of 200,000

Polk: 162,000 out of 305,000

Seminole: 131,000 out of 225,000.

Lake: 30,000 out of 169,000

Volusia: 247,000 out of 312,000

Brevard: 92,000 out of 330,000

David Harris

Hurricane Ian has regained its strength over the Atlantic as the storm was once again upgraded to Category 1 hurricane during the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. update.

Although the storm has moved offshore from Central Florida, the NHC advised that major-to-record river flooding will continue across portions of central Florida, including the Little Wekiva River, which is already causing substantial area flooding and isn’t expected to crest until Sunday.

A storm surge warning remains in effect for the St. Johns River and the NHC advises that hurricane conditions may continue into tonight for northeastern Florida.

Hurricane Ian is currently located 240 miles south of Charleston, S.C., with maximum sustained winds of 75 MPH.

Gatorland’s parking lot is flooded and an alarm is going off at the front entrance.

Gatorland’s parking lot is flooded and an alarm is going off at the front entrance after Hurricane Ian.

Legoland Florida in Winter Haven will also remain closed through Friday because of Hurricane Ian, the resort said Thursday. The resort will allow guests with tickets dated Wednesday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 2 to redeem the tickets on another date through the end of the year.

Legoland noted that its call center offices are temporarily closed as staff shelters from the storm, but guests can rebook their trips once the offices reopen.

The resort follows SeaWorld and Busch Gardens in extending its hurricane-related closure.

— Katie Rice

The National Guard is rescuing people stranded by Hurricane Ian’s floodwaters in the Pebble Pointe neighborhood in Kissimmee.

Residents left their homes with pets and garbage bags full of clothes and other belongings.

Roger Levenson, 66, escaped with a birdcage and his two birds, Lucky and Bugsy. The National Guard gave them a ride out in a large truck.

“This is a mess,” he said as he waited for his brother to pick him up.

Erika Marquez held her two shivering chihuahuas. She and her husband had just remodeled their kitchen, only for it to be ruined by Ian.

“It is really bad,” Marquez said. “Someone was kayaking.”

Marquez and Levenson said the water was about ankle-deep in their homes, and many people in the neighborhood had flood damage.

— Skyler Swisher

Hollerbach’s German Restaurant, an anchor of downtown Sanford’s business district, posted photos of its storm-damaged restaurant and nearby Magnolia Square Market Thursday afternoon with a plea to local residents for assistance.

“If anyone is able and willing, we could use your help clearing our dining room of flood water,” the post read. “..[R]emember, do not put yourself in harm’s way to aid us.”

Photos showed chairs stacked on tables above flooded sections of the restaurant’s indoor dining room. At the nearby Magnolia Square Market around the corner, sections of ceiling panels and fallen merchandise lay on the store’s floor.

Eric Koffsky, Hollerbach’s marketing director, said 15 to 20 people had shown up at the restaurant to help clean up by 3:45 p.m. The crowd was a mix of employees and concerned residents, he said.

“The community came through in a big way,” he said.

Katie Rice

Jeff Blostein said he expected some flooding but “nothing major” as he traveled from South Florida to ride out Hurricane Ian with his 20-year-old daughter at her Arden Villas apartment near UCF.

“We were more worried about the wind,” the 51-year-old from Coconut Creek said.

When he woke up early Thursday morning, the water level was “pretty significant” but not too bad, he said. But as the day continued, the flood waters increased rapidly into a “horrific” scene, Blostein said.

“The entire complex is underwater — and I’m not overstating that,” he said. “I’ve really never seen anything like it. Just about every car is either submerged or past the doors.”

Blostein, who is staying on the third floor, said apartments on the first floor have been flooded and a lake at the complex has breached.

Blostein said he waded out into the floods to check on his car but stopped when the water got too deep.

“There were a bunch of kids doing the same thing, trying desperately to save their cars,” he said.

Blostein said he has not gone back to check on his car, but he thinks it is likely a loss.

“My gut feeling is it’s probably not going to be good, so it’s upsetting, but as long as we’re safe, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

For now, Blostein and his daughter are safe in the apartment on the third floor, with power and enough supplies to last a few days, he said. Blostein said he has not seen law enforcement attempting to make rescues at the apartment complex yet.

“We’re gonna stay put and hopefully the water at some point will start receding, he said. “If it doesn’t, then we may have to consider a rescue option.”

Seminole County officials urged residents to stay inside and off the roads as flood conditions persist in parts of the county and responders work to clear debris from roads and assist those in need.

Over 167 homes and counting are affected by “historic” flooding, county Emergency Manager Alan Harris said, and responders are seeing flooding occur in unprecedented areas.

“Several roadways are washed out, so again, we are encouraging people to not travel if you do not have to,” he said, including State Road 46 near Interstate 4. “Turn around, don’t drown.”

Various neighborhoods within the county have experienced flooding, including Lincoln Heights in Sanford, Spring Oaks along the Little Wekiva River in Altamonte Springs and Mockingbird Lane in Winter Springs.

Deputies, firefighters, EMTs and members of the National Guard are actively rescuing people from flooded locations, he said.

Sheriff Dennis Lemma said the Sheriff’s Office has lost around 10 vehicles due to flooding or falling debris. Flooding conditions “will be around for some time” as river levels increase with water runoff, he said.

Crews have cleared about 750,000 cubic yards of debris from Seminole County, which is about “9 ¼ Spaceship Earths,” Harris said, referencing the large ride structure at Disney’s Epcot. Debris cleanup will likely take “weeks and months,” he added.

The county is still working to restore power to residents and utilities. Around 115,000 people were without power across Seminole County as of 2 p.m., nearly 60 traffic signals were out and some water utility lift stations were still running on generator power, Harris said.

The county is consolidating two storm shelters, those at Lake Mary High School and Lawton Chiles Middle School, to neighboring shelters. “Plenty of capacity” is still available at remaining shelters, Harris said. A full list of open shelters is available at prepareseminole.org. Despite the shelters’ consolidation, they still have “plenty of capacity” and are prepared to welcome new people seeking help, Harris said.

County Fire Chief Matt Kinley said firefighters and EMTs have responded to flooding calls across the county, including in Little Wekiva, Altamonte Springs, Winter Springs and Lake Harney.

Personnel evacuated over 65 people from the Hacienda Village area in Winter Springs and 18 people from Spring Oaks in Altamonte Springs alone, he said.

This morning, the fire department rescued a family of three and their three pets after a tree fell on their home in the Wekiva area, Kinley said. Photos posted by the fire department show 3 to 4 feet of water pooling on Little Wekiva Road around noon Thursday.

Kinley cautioned residents to stay inside, as the fire department has seen people trapped by fallen trees.

“This will be a slow and steady recovery from this event,” Kinley said. “Please continue to be patient, be smart with your actions and stay safe.”

— Katie Rice

Disney will reopen its theme parks and Disney Springs in a “phased approach” starting Friday as it sees weather conditions improve, the resort said Thursday afternoon. Disney is expected to announce these modified operating hours later Thursday at disneyworld.com/weather.

“We thank our first responders and community leaders for their courageous efforts in preparing for and managing the storm’s impact. To our cast members in Florida and in South Carolina, thank you for selflessly taking care of our guests,” the resort said in a statement.

Disney also plans to support hurricane relief efforts in Florida. Details of that support will be released at a later time.

Katie Rice

At a news conference in Punta Gorda Thursday, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said his office will set up an “insurance village” in Southwest Florida for people to get a rapid response from their insurance carriers.

“We have a preliminary site set up, and we will have 20-25 carriers, start writing checks for living expenses then sign up for adjusters to check the damage,” Patronis said.

Patronis warned people about predatory contractors who may come knocking.

“They’re going to come in like a bunch of locusts,” Patronis said.

People should first call their agent, their carrier or his agency to set up a claim, and also to report any unscrupulous or suspicious contractors.

Flooding is widespread in Osceola County, and rescues are underway, said Andrew Sullivan, a spokesman for Osceola County Fire Rescue.

At a 55-and-up community in Kissimmee, first responders used an airboat to rescue people who were trapped in knee-to-waist deep floodwaters.

The airboat ferried two residents using a walker and their two dogs to dry ground. About 1,300 people live at Good Samaritan Society’s Kissimmee Village, which is vulnerable to flooding.

It’s unknown how many people didn’t evacuate, but deputies offered everyone a chance to leave, Sullivan said.

All the assisted-living residents who are the most vulnerable evacuated, he said.

Ian produced unprecedented flooding in Osceola County, Sullivan said.

“It is widespread, and it is at levels we have not seen before in my time here and many other people’s time here,” he said.

County officials are requesting state and federal assistance. The National Guard is staging at Silver Spurs Arena.

Two hospitals were forced to divert patients because of flooding, Sullivan said.

FPL CEO Eric Silagy said his company has 20,000 of the 42,000 crews restoring power to the areas hit by Hurricane Ian.

“We have 1.2 million without power and got 700,000 restored before the storm even left the state. We did not lose one single transmission tower, that is great.”

FPL is getting substations struck by debris back online but said other areas would be a long time before the infrastructure is rebuilt. “We have some sections close to our territory on the beach that will require rebuilding. Some businesses won’t be able to safely take the power once it’s ready.”

Universal Orlando is conducting detailed inspections around the resort to assess storm damage, the resort said Thursday afternoon.

“Our thoughts go out to all those impacted by Hurricane Ian and we stand ready to help our community recover,” Universal said in a statement.

The resort has not released updates on its plan to reopen Friday.

Areas next to Universal appeared to experience major flooding as Hurricane Ian passed nearby Thursday morning. Video taken by Spectrum News 13 reporter Jeff Allen showed standing water several feet deep at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel near the entrance to Universal. Footage posted to Twitter by Spectrum reporter Jerry Hume showed the westbound lanes of I-4 Express flooding at Kirkman Road near Universal around 7:45 a.m.

It is unclear what damage Universal’s theme parks may have sustained in the storm. Photos posted to social media show a hole torn in paneling on the side of a show building for Jurassic Park River Adventure at the Islands of Adventure theme park, but Universal spokespeople have not confirmed the damage.

— Katie Rice

The City of Kissimmee will enforce a mandatory curfew beginning Thursday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. with an exception for essential personnel and those that need to travel to and from work, Kissimmee City Manager Mike Steigerwald said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

“We are currently in the process of sheltering individuals rescued,” Steigerwald said. “Our units are currently working quickly to get assistance to those within the impacted neighborhoods.”

The areas hardest hit by flood waters and where most of the rescues are taking place are north Kissimmee, along Central Avenue, Columbia Avenue corridors where the city ditch is located, the Woodside Neighborhood in the western side of Kissimmee, Emory Canal neighborhood near Osceola High School and along Shingle Creek.

“Part of the issues we’ve been having is just the extreme amount of water that has been dumped in a very short period of time in the Kissimmee area,” Steigerwald said. “Having the assets necessary to get into those areas has proven to be a bit of a challenge but as I said earlier our resources and partners have been made available.”

The City of Kissimmee has partnered with local county police and fire rescue and has received high-water rescue equipment and additional ambulances, Steigerwald said.

“If you are in those areas impacted and you have called 9-1-1 we have you on our list,” Steigerwald said. “We’re working through that list as best we can.”

Around 100 people have been rescued so far in the City of Kissimmee with 17 additional people having been taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, said Melissa Zayas-Moreno, Kissimmee spokesperson.

“We want people to please stay in place as we have extensive flooding,” Kissimmee Mayor Olga Gonzalez said.

Also in Kissimmee, Good Samaritan Village, a 55-plus community near Shingle Creek will have its power turned off due to massive flooding in the area, Osceola County Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet. Residents who need to be evacuated should call 407-742-9102 pr 407-742-9105.

— Natalia Jaramillo

Orange County officials said Thursday afternoon that fire rescues crews conducted water rescues in 12 neighborhoods across the county.

The National Guard is deploying 6 highwater trucks to three fire stations – Nos. 30, 51 and 80 – to help with evacuations.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday morning, more than 200,000 households in Orange County are without power. “All utility companies in the area, Duke, OUC, and Winter Park Utilities, continue to assess the situation and are working fast to get those homes up and running again,” the county news release said.

Chris Suto said his girlfriend woke him up about 4 a.m. Thursday when she heard “bubbling noises.” The bedroom of their College Park home was filling with water that was already ankle deep.

Their backyard was flooded and their wood-frame house, built in 1949, was filling with water, which was coming in from the sliders as well as through the walls, Suto said.

They woke their two roommates, put electronics and other valuables up high and tried to fight back the water.

“We had brooms and just started sweeping, which was pointless in the beginning because it was just flooding too fast,” he said.

He thought about leaving and driving to a hotel or his parents’ condo in Longwood, but when he looked outside the flood water on Golfview Street was halfway up his car’s door.

Eventually, the water started to recede and by late morning they’d manage to dry out much of the house. “We were working pretty hard this morning sweeping and drying,” he said. “I’m not sure what the damage is,” Suto said, but he filed an insurance claim already. “It’s been a long day, that’s for sure,” he added.

When the rain let up later Thursday, he and his roommates walked to nearby Lake Adair, which had overflown its banks in several places, flooded a section of Edgewater Drive and, he said, seemed to be flowing into nearby Lake Concord. The section of Edgewater Drive between the lakes, near Lake Adair Boulevard, was covered with water that was nearly waist deep. “It’s not something I would guess would happen,” he added.

Leslie Postal

Hurricane Ian's torrential rains left Lake Adair Park underwater in Orlando's College Park neighborhood on Sept. 29, 2022.

Universal Orlando is conducting detailed inspections around the resort to assess storm damage, the resort said Thursday afternoon.

“Our thoughts go out to all those impacted by Hurricane Ian and we stand ready to help our community recover,” Universal said in a statement.

The resort has not released updates on its plan to reopen Friday.

Areas next to Universal appeared to experience major flooding as Hurricane Ian passed nearby Thursday morning. Video taken by Spectrum News 13 reporter Jeff Allen showed standing water several feet deep at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel near the entrance to Universal. Footage posted to Twitter by Spectrum reporter Jerry Hume showed the westbound lanes of I-4 Express flooding at Kirkman Road near Universal around 7:45 a.m.

It is unclear what damage Universal’s theme parks may have sustained in the storm. Photos posted to social media show a hole torn in paneling on the side of a show building for Jurassic Park River Adventure at the Islands of Adventure theme park, but Universal spokespeople have not commented on the damage.

Katie Rice

A hole in the side of Jurassic Park River Adventure ride building at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, after Hurricane Ian crossed the region. (Rich Pope, Orlando Sentinel)

Across Osceola County, many roads are impassable due to major flooding.

  • In St. Cloud, Old Canoe Creek Road and Neptune Road intersection is closed.
  • The intersection at Old Canoe Creek Road and Natchez Trace Drive is closed.
  • 17th Street and Budlinger Avenue intersection is closed.
  • Pine Lake Drive and Cypress Court intersection is closed.
  • 17th street and Orange Avenue intersection is also closed.
  • Lillian Lee Road is closed.

Osceola County is still in the early stages of assessing the extent of flooding throughout the county and helping those in need of assistance, Osceola County spokesperson Mark Pino said in an email.

Road accessibility will be dependent on weather, hydrology of the area and existing infrastructure, Pino said.

The worst of Hurricane Ian has passed Orange County, mayor Jerry Demings said, but tropical-storm-force winds are expected to linger until about 1 a.m. Friday, he said in a news conference Thursday.

Demings and Sheriff John Mina urged people to stay home due to significant flooding, downed power lines and trees blocking roads. But he thus far hasn’t issued a curfew.

“We are cautiously optimistic the worst of the storm has passed,” Demings said. “That means it’s not time for our residents to re-engage with normal social activities…we’re asking you to stay put at this time. Stay home.”

The county fire department and law enforcement have rescued about 30 people from the Hope Circle area of Orlo Vista, a low-laying flood-prone area near Kirkman Road, five miles west of Downtown Orlando.

About 200,000 customers of the Orlando Utilities Commission and Duke Energy are without power, but all customers of OUC and Orange County Utilities have water service, he said.

Orange County Utilities Manager Ed Torres asked residents to limit water usage to limit strain on wastewater systems. If drains back up, he said to call 311 so crews can be dispatched.

Damage assessments are beginning this afternoon by county public works staff in West Orange, as winds are expected to be calmer. On Friday, if winds die down on the east side, crews will assess those areas, said Diana Almodovar, the deputy public works director.

Demings said sustained winds remain between 30 mph and 40 mph, with higher gusts. Average rainfall in the county has been between 8 inches and 12 inches, though some areas have been doused with 16 inches so far.

— Ryan Gillespie

Neighborhoods throughout Osceola County have reported heavy flooding since the arrival of Hurricane Ian, with some streets blocked off while first responders conduct rescue efforts.

Video taken by a reporter at Spectrum News 13, the Orlando Sentinel’s news partner, shows Kissimmee firefighters helping dozens of residents escape their flooded homes with their pets and belongings.

County law enforcement agencies and other officials encourage people to stay off the roads as the storm continues to pass. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the Kissimmee and St. Cloud police departments have not said how many emergency calls they have responded to so far nor have they reported any injuries.

— Cristobal Reyes

Walt Disney World deployed crews to assess storm damage at its theme parks and resort Thursday morning. The resort previously announced it would close Wednesday and Thursday because of the hurricane.

“We are thinking of our neighbors across Florida,” the resort said in a statement. “We will get through this together and will be there to help our cast members and community.”

Disney’s hotels remain closed to new guests until 3 p.m. Friday. A resort spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon the hotels were at capacity and employees were staying on-site to assist guests.

Certain restaurants at resort hotels are closed Thursday. A full list is available on Disney’s website.

Unite Here Local 737, the union that represents Disney’s hotel and restaurant workers, said Disney is paying workers who had shifts scheduled during the storm closure and lost those hours.

— Katie Rice

EM Director Kevin Guthrie said this is the start of their 72-hour clock, where they search first, secure second and stabilize third.

Guthrie said the division has received over 1,500 requests for resources from county agencies and is filling or in the process of filling 1,300 of those.

Additionally, 300 truckloads of food and supplies are ready to move out right now and the state is deploying over 100 mobile cell phone towers to areas without cell phone service.

Guthrie also said Central Florida logistics staging areas have all the supplies needed to respond and help people, including tarps and medical supplies.

Guthrie said DEM has received over 15,000 inputs to the shelter-in-place survey and encouraged anyone sheltering-in-place or knows of someone sheltering-in-place to register at floridadisaster.org/report.

“That is not a replacement for 911,” Guthrie said. “If you need assistance, call 911 in your local area.”

Those 911 calls can help rescue crews locate the people most in need of assistance, he said.

— Jeffrey Schweers

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office warned residents Thursday morning to avoid several flooded roadways in the east and southeast areas of the county.

The following intersections are flooded:

  • Pershing Avenue and Glen Village Court
  • Palm Creek Avenue and Curry Ford Road
  • East Colonial Drive and Taylor Creek Road
  • Conway Road and Judge Road to Hoffner Avenue

“Please, if you don’t need to evacuate your home due to rising flood waters, stay off the roads,” the agency said on social media.

— Monivette Cordeiro

In Sanford, particularly near downtown and Lake Monroe, residences and businesses were threatened by the hurricane’s high winds and flooding early Thursday. High winds continued to pummel the area into the late morning.

Reporter Amanda McKenzie with FOX 35 shared a photo of 1st Street in downtown Sanford flooded by rain around 4:30 a.m.

WKMG-TV reported the storm crumpled an awning outside St. Johns River Steak & Seafood near the marina. Restaurant owners did not respond to a message left before the restaurant’s scheduled opening.

Many businesses near downtown Sanford remain closed through Thursday and are slated to reopen early Friday.

City officials warned residents may have to limit toilet flushing if widespread power outages impacted sewer utilities. Power outages and uprooted trees could also interrupt water and sewer services and cause the city to issue a precautionary boil water notice. The city asked locals to monitor its website and watch the news for further utility information.

The Lake Mary Police Department asked residents to remain indoors Thursday morning due to flooding and debris blocking area roads.

In Altamonte Springs, an emergency executive order limited speed limits on certain roads, including Central Parkway and Cranes Roost Boulevard, to 5 mph due to severe flooding. The complete list of affected roads is available at this link.

–Katie Rice

Seminole County officials have ordered residents to make no wake when they drive through water-covered roads and made a request not to take motorized boats on roads.

Alan Harris, chief administrator for the Office of Emergency Management, was expected to sign an order that required no wake on roadways.

“No wake. Typically when we talk about wake, we talk about waterways and other areas but we have had problems in the past with people flying through roadways, shooting up wakes in people’s yards, on their mailboxes and potentially doing damage. It is incredibly dangerous to do that so there will be an executive order here in Seminole County that does not allow driving up and down the road through water to throw a wake on other areas,” said Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

The order does not specify a citation amount, only that it is “punishable by the maximum fines and penalties authorized by State law for the violation of a County Ordinance.”

Not taking motorized boats on roadways was a safety announcement by the sheriff, according to a county spokesperson.

Carolyn Guniss

Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office were rescuing people and animals in the Orlo Vista neighborhood from “waist-deep” floodwaters using high-water rescue vehicles, the agency said on social media.

“If you need to be evacuated, step out of your front door,” the office’s emergency response team announced on a loudspeaker in the west Orange County neighborhood, according to a video shared by OCSO.

Monivette Cordeiro

Volusia County officials said they have their first fatality from Hurricane Ian.

They said a 74-year-old man went out during the storm to try to drain his pool and died.

They are emphasizing people need to remain off roads and that bridges to beaches are still closed.

They are expecting sustained tropical storm force winds for the next six hours and tropical storm-forces gusts until tomorrow.

Sheriff Michael Chitwood said the county is “seeing historic flooding.”

“I am imploring you to stay off the roads,” he said.

A county-wide curfew will remain in place until 7 a.m. tomorrow.

In Sanford, particularly near downtown and Lake Monroe, residences and businesses were threatened by the hurricane’s high winds and flooding early Thursday. High winds continued to pummel the area linto the late morning.

Reporter Amanda McKenzie with FOX 35 shared a photo of 1st Street in downtown Sanford flooded by rain around 4:30 a.m.

WKMG-TV reported the storm crumpled an awning outside St. Johns River Steak & Seafood near the marina. Restaurant owners did not respond to a message left before the restaurant’s scheduled opening.

Many businesses near downtown Sanford remain closed through Thursday and are slated to reopen early Friday.

City officials warned residents may have to limit toilet flushing if widespread power outages impacted sewer utilities. Power outages and uprooted trees could also interrupt water and sewer services and cause the city to issue a precautionary boil water notice. The city asked locals to monitor its website and watch the news for further utility information.

The Lake Mary Police Department asked residents to remain indoors Thursday morning due to flooding and debris blocking area roads.

In Altamonte Springs, an emergency executive order limited speed limits on certain roads, including Central Parkway and Cranes Roost Boulevard, to 5 mph due to severe flooding. The complete list of affected roads is available at this link.

Katie Rice

The Florida Disaster Fund has raised $1.6 million so far “because the people across state and country have stepped up big,” First Lady Caseyn DeSantis said.

She said the state’s private fund will also try to remove any red tape and bureaucracy to get that money to people in need immediately. “Thanks… for stepping up to help wonderful people in need,” she said.

Jeffrey Schweers

Seminole County officials have ordered residents to make no wake when they drive through water-covered roads and made a request not to take motorized boats on roads.

Alan Harris, chief administrator for the Office of Emergency Management, was expected to sign an order that required no wake on roadways.

“No wake. Typically when we talk about wake, we talk about waterways and other areas but we have had problems in the past with people flying through roadways, shooting up wakes in people’s yards, on their mailboxes and potentially doing damage. It is incredibly dangerous to do that so there will be an executive order here in Seminole County that does not allow driving up and down the road through water to throw a wake on other areas,” said Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

The order does not specify a citation amount, only that it is “punishable by the maximum fines and penalties authorized by State law for the violation of a County Ordinance.”

Not taking motorized boats on roadways was a safety announcement by the sheriff, according to a county spokesperson.

Carolyn D. Guniss

Water fills up inside the home of Courtesy of Amanda Trompeta and Dimitrios Frantzis in Winter Springs on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 after Hurricane Ian passed through Central Florida.

In Winter Springs, Amanda Trompeta and Dimitrios Frantzis woke up to sounds of their small dog barking at 5 a.m. to find water had begun flooding their home.

“I thought he was just scared of the storm and when I stood up I realized the water was ankle deep,” Trompeta said.

The water kept rising and by 6:20 a.m. water in their home started lifting up furniture and even their refrigerator.

The couple said they feel very stranded and sad. It’s their first house, and they have a wedding less than three weeks away. While not hurt, they said they were afraid of the rising water.

Trompeta said they called for emergency help at 6 a.m. but were told they couldn’t assist at that time. Later dispatch said help would come, but the local emergency response could not reach them.

“The fire rescue lady called me at 8:06 a.m. to let me know they tried to reach us but they can’t,” she said. “So now they’re waiting for military help.”

Amanda Rabines

Deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office were rescuing people and animals in the Orlo Vista neighborhood from “waist-deep” floodwaters using high-water rescue vehicles, the agency said on social media.

“If you need to be evacuated, step out of your front door,” the office’s emergency response team announced on a loudspeaker in the west Orange County neighborhood, according to a video shared by OCSO.

Monivette Cordeiro

As soon as that storm passed, first responders descended on southwest Florida, rescue missions on barrier islands, Florida guard on the ground participating in efforts.

Search and recuse teams performing rescue efforts, starting with those barrier islands and these operations are ongoing. There are 28 large mostly chinooks between National Guard and Coast guard, and more air assets will be brought in as the day goes on. Officials are also working with hospitals overnight, evacuating, and providing generators.

There are more than 2.2 million power outages, but there could be a higher impact outside southwest Florida. In the seven counties, there are more than 1.5 million outages, with Lee and Charlotte County essentially off the grid.

Alligator Alley and most of I-75 are open and flowing. Areas of Lee County are still iffy.

In Seminole County, residents received several overnight alerts starting around 3:15 a.m. warning them to stay inside due to potential flash flooding. These alerts remained in effect until 10:15 a.m.

At a Thursday morning press conference, Emergency Manager Alan Harris warned residents of “unprecedented, historic flooding” in the area, including in Altamonte Springs, Geneva, Lake Mary, Heathrow, Wekiva, Winter Springs and other areas.

The Little Wekiva River saw historic water levels, he added, and tributaries of the St. Johns River have also elevated due to rainfall.

First responders have deployed flood terrain vehicles to flooded areas, and the National Guard is deploying 10 vehicles from its staging area in Sanford to assist residents as needed.

Seminole County Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Blake said the fire department received 250 calls to 911 overnight related to downed power lines, fire alarms and car accidents. The department is delaying responses to non-emergency calls to prioritize emergencies.

Residents should stay off the roads unless they are frontline responders to the hurricane, Harris said. Drivers should treat every intersection as a four-way stop if they have to travel since “dozens” of traffic signals are out county-wide.

Around 80,000 Seminole County residents were without power around 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Utilities providers were preparing to deploy workers as soon as it was safe to respond, Harris said.

Some residents may have noticed interruptions to water utilities as select lift stations were using generator power early Thursday.

Harris asked residents to report storm damage to Seminole County’s damage reporting portal at prepareseminole.org.

“These damage collection numbers will help us to get assistance much quicker to those that may need it,” he said.

Katie Rice

Faced with historic flooding along the Little Wekiva River and Geneva, Seminole County is teaming with the Florida National Guard in rescuing individuals with 10 all-terrain trucks.

“Along the Little Wekiva, we are at an historic point. It’s never been like this before in recorded history,” said Alan Harris, director of Seminole’s office of emergency management.Seminole County Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Blake Thursday made an appeal to residents to stay off the roads as Tropical Storm Ian caused flash flooding of homes and roads and downing trees and road signs.Blake said his team has rescued people stranded in their cars and homes in Winter Springs, Geneva and the Little Wekiva River area.” — Martin Comas and Carolyn Guniss

Carolyn D. Guniss

State Emergency management director Kevin Guthrie said he received a call from the Orange County emergency management director. They were actively responding to nine widespread areas along the Colonial Drive area, I-4 and State Road 436, so assets already in place in Central Florida were deployed to help.

“Very quickly this morning, our overnight crew sprung into action and started moving National Guard high-water vehicles, as well as other assets that were staged there for Urban Search and Rescue elements with water elements and they, started moving into action this morning,” he said.

He said the rescue efforts were due to the massive rain that led to lakes and rivers rising as much as 4 feet within a matter of hours.

“It appears that these lakes were filling up and overflowing into the neighborhoods around them,” he said.

Guthrie warned people in Central Florida and in the devastation on the Gulf Coast to stay out of the area.

“Do not come in and tour the area for damage,” he said noting they have as many as 30,000 responders coming into the damaged areas that need priority access to the roads. “Stay at home. Do not get on the road. Let the first responders have the roadways. Let the power crews have the roadways. We will get things open up exponentially quicker if we don’t have to maneuver around individuals that are just coming into area to look around. … Let the crews get in there do they need to do? We’re coming in full force. We’ve got a lot of people coming in there. We need you out of our way so we get our job done.”

Richard Tribou

Orange County Fire Rescue evacuated the Avante at Orlando nursing home off north Semoran Boulevard Thursday morning due to rising floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ian.

The department shared videos on social media of first responders transporting residents on stretchers through high floods.

OCFR also said first responders were conducting water rescues in boats of residents in the Rio Pinar neighborhood.

Monivette Cordeiro

Winter Park has issued a curfew until at least 5 p.m., which allows only public safety and essential workers on the streets. The curfew could be extended depending on weather conditions later in the day.

City officials also warn that downed power lines could be in standing water and be dangerous and that residents should remain indoors.

Natalia Jaramillo

Lake County officials helped ten families by the St. Johns River relocate Wednesday night after rapid flooding, WESH 2 reported. The evacuation was a preventative measure, County officials told WESH. They said they worry that emergency crews won’t be able to respond because of rapidly rising waters.

The county told WESH officials advised two other families to leave who decided to stay.

Since Wednesday, the St. Johns River has risen by six inches, WESH reported. Just six inches more would flood many homes and businesses along the river, according to the National Weather Service.

WESH reported that as flooding continues, the weather is sending alligators and snakes out of swamps into areas they aren’t normally seen, Lake County’s fire chief. A 10-foot alligator was seen swimming in St. Johns River Wednesday evening, said WESH.

Lake County Emergency Management on Twitter shared as of Wednesday evening, more than 860 residents, nearly 90 with special needs, and 116 pets were staying at the county’s shelters.

Lake County Emergency Management told residents to shelter in place and said the county’s Disaster Response Team will soon begin assessing damage.

Caroline Catherman

Osceola County is now mobilizing resources to residents after winds became too dangerous late Wednesday for crews to respond.

Late Wednesday the city of Kissimmee tweeted that first responders, including police and fire rescue could no longer respond to calls due to high winds.

“We know you need help,” said Bill Litton, Osceola County Emergency Management Director at a press conference Thursday morning. “Please stay safe as extensive flooding is an issue affecting our community currently.”

Litton again urged residents not to leave their homes unless it was an emergency and to be patient as crews dispatch to assist any Osceola County residents.

“If you’re trapped and have an emergency please call 9-1-1,” Litton said.

Downed power lines are dangerous, Litton stressed and asked residents to avoid power lines and shuffle feet to safely move away.

Kissimmee Utility Authority reported 14,995 customers without power, according to a tweet by KUA Thursday morning.

After ceasing operations late Wednesday due to dangerous winds, in an early morning tweet on Thursday, KUA said they are still not mobilizing as weather conditions are still too dangerous for crews.

The city of St.Cloud tweeted late Wednesday that many traffic signals within the city are without power and asked residents to treat all intersections with downed traffic lights as four-way-stops.

In Kissimmee, very early Thursday saw many city streets flooded according to videos posted to Twitter by WFTV and comments by Osceola County.

“Folks, we are in the midst of the most catastrophic flooding events in the history of the city of Kissimmee,” Kissimmee City Manager, Mike Steigerwald said at a Thursday morning press conference. “I’m not telling you that to alarm you but it’s just the facts.”

Many sections of the city are impassable due to flooding and now is a dangerous time to be outside, Steigerwald said.

“Primarily on the westside, we have areas that are experiencing catastrophic flooding,” Steigerwald said. “Many residents are in need of rescue and assistance.”

Kissimmee is bringing high-water rescue vehicles to assist residents who are trapped, Steigerwald said.

Steigerwald asked those in need of evacuation to call 9-1-1.

In north Kissimmee, many residences are without power due to several feet of water and dangerous downed power lines, Steigerwald said.

To report downed power lines call Kissimmee Utility Authority at 407-933-9800 or to report dangerous downed power lines call 9-1-1.

Natalia Jaramillo

Florida’s Turnpike is closed in both directions from mile markers 254 through 267 in Orange County due to significant flooding, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The northbound and southbound lanes in this area will remain closed until the storm passes and the flooding subsides.

Richard Tribou

Social media is inundated with photos and videos of damage from Tropical Storm Ian.

Twitter user @johnrich said he received a photo of a mobile police unit floating down the street in Ft. Myers.

Anyssa Bohanan, a weekend reporter in Ft. Myers, shared photos of the Sanibel Causeway Thursday morning after Ian passed through as a hurricane.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will give a press conference from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee slated to begin at 8:45 a.m.

Also in attendance will be Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.

It will be streamed at thefloridachannel.org.

Richard Tribou

This morning, President Biden declared a major disaster in Florida, making millions in emergency recovery aid available, especially to the nine counties hit hardest.

Here’s most of the text of his declaration:

The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding also is available to State, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota and emergency protective measures statewide. For a period of 30 days from the start of the incident period, assistance for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, is authorized at 100 percent of the total eligible costs.

Lastly, Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional areas may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service.

Jeffrey Schweers

Seminole County’s Office of Emergency Management will livestream an update on Hurricane Ian from the Emergency Operations Center. It will be streaming on youtube.com/seminolecounty, facebook.com/SeminoleCounty and SGTV, Spectrum Channel 498.

Updates will be made on flash flood warning and affected areas.

Richard Tribou

Volusia County law enforcement reported an overnight death of a 72-year-old Deltona man who had gone outside during the storm to drain his pool.

“Deputies responded to a home on Poinciana Lane near Lake Bethel around 1 a.m. after the victim’s wife reported he disappeared after heading outside. While searching for him, deputies found his flashlight, then spotted the victim unresponsive in a canal behind the home,” according to a press release from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The report said deputies pulled the man from the water, performed CPR until paramedics arrived, but he could not be revived and was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

“The initial investigation indicates the victim was using a hose to drain the pool down a hill and into a 30-foot-wide canal, where a steep decline into the water was extremely soft and slippery due to the heavy rain,” the report said. :The Sheriff’s Office sends its sincere condolences to the victim’s family.”

Richard Tribou

Flash Flood Warnings in Central Florida continue into Thursday morning.

At 6:39 a.m., radar and rain gauges indicated heavy rain falling in Little Wekiva River showing between 6-10 inches with another 3-5 inches possible.

“Flash flooding is already occurring. River level currently reported of 30.6 ft which is nearly a foot above record,” the NWS stated.

The flash flooding could affect parts of Altamonte Springs, Maitland, Lake Mary, Longwood, Wekiva Springs, Forest City, Fern Park and Heathrow.

“This is a particularly dangerous situation. Seek higher ground now!” reads the warning. “Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order. Turn around, don`t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”

Seminole County emergency managers will be holding a press conference at 7:30 a.m.

Other flash flood warnings continue in Central Florida as well including southeastern Orange County and north central Osceola County through 8:45 a.m.

“Local law enforcement reported heavy rain in the Orlando metro. Between 10 and 15 inches of rain have fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are possible in the warned area. Flash flooding is already occurring,” the NWS stated.

Richard Tribou

More than 2.5 million people were without power across the state by 6:30 a.m.

Power outages hit Southwest Florida the hardest including most residents of hard-hit DeSoto, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, according to poweroutage.us. About 600,000 people were without power in Central Florida by Thursday morning.

Richard Tribou

The National Weather Service reported that Orlando set a daily record with 7.72 inches of rain reported Wednesday at the international airport.

The previous record high for the same date was 2.68 inches of rain, set in 1905.

The NHS said Melbourne recorded 3.57 inches of rain, Daytona Beach had 5.22 (also a new daily record), and Sanford had 5.96 inches.

A flash flood warning was issued for southeastern Orange County and north central Osceola County, effective until 4 a.m. on Thursday.

“At 12:58 a.m. EDT, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated heavy rain falling across the warned area. Between 6 and 9 inches of rain have fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 4-6 inches, with locally higher amounts, are expected in the warned area,” the National Weather Service said in its warning.

“Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly.”

The NWS said locations that could experience flash flooding include: Titusville, Oviedo, Rockledge, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Cocoa, Cape Canaveral, Wedgefield, Oak Hill, Mims, Titusville Airport, Scottsmoor, Haulover Canal, Port Saint John, Christmas, Playalinda Beach, Sharpes, Lone Cabbage Fish Camp, Chuluota and Bithlo.

Rain from Hurricane Ian prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Flash Flood Warning for parts of Orange, Brevard and Volusia counties early Thursday.

Another flash flood warning was issued for parts of Polk County

Finally, some good news with Hurricane Ian. Just before 1 a.m., the National Weather Service canceled the tornado watch for Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Ian appears to continue weakening, so much so that the National Hurricane Center stopped doing hourly updates on the storm’s progress at 11 p.m. The next advisory is at 2 a.m., but the storm is still packing strong winds and rain that will be moving in the Orlando metro area before daybreak.

Just before 1 a.m., Patrick Space Force Base in Brevard County reported a wind gust of 58.7 mph, and a gust of 65.6 mph was reported in Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie.

More than 2.1 million customers in Florida were without electricity as 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

According to PowerOutage.us, more than 40% of customers in Polk County have lost power. Here’s an update on electricity across Central Florida.

  • Orange County – 71,071 out of 631,967 customers are without power
  • Seminole County – 39,552 out of 225,139 customers are without power
  • Osceola County – 12,941 out of 198,813 customers are without power
  • Lake County – 10,089 out of 169,649 customers are without power
  • Volusia County – 39,694 out of 310,304 customers are without power
  • Polk County – 145,591 out of 355,057 customers are without power
  • Brevard – 13,471 out of 330,448 customers are are without power

The hardest hit areas of Southwest Florida, where Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, led with the most customers without electricity.

Almost 100% of customers in Charlotte, DeSoto and Lee counties were without power.

Our news partners at Spectrum News 13 report that a traffic signal structure at the corner of Orange Avenue and Livingston Street in downtown Orlando has crashed onto the roadway.

Even though the structure was down, electricity still appeared to be on based on a photo posted online.

A flash flood warning was issued for southeastern Orange County and north central Osceola County, effective until 2:45 a.m. on Thursday.

“At 11:48 p.m. EDT, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated heavy rain falling across the warned area. Between 8 and 10 inches of rain have fallen. Additional rainfall amounts of 4 to 6 inches are expected in the warned area. Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly,” the National Weather Service said.

The NWS said locations that could experience flash flooding include. Orlando, Kissimmee, Winter Park, Wedgefield, Orlando International Airport, Avalon Park, Conway, Azalea Park, Narcoossee, East Lake Toho, Buena Ventura Lakes, Bithlo, Oak Ridge, College Park, Pine Hills, Belle Isle, Lake Nona, Lake Hart, Austin Tindall Park and Union Park.

A flash flood warning was issued Monday night for parts of Orange and Osceola counties.

Heavy rain from Hurricane Ian has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Flood Warning for the St Johns River near and above Lake Harney in Seminole County, warning of a record flood stage coming.

“As Hurricane Ian moves into east central Florida early this morning, historic heavy rainfall will continue, leading to quickly rising levels on the Saint Johns River Above Lake Harney at Geneva,” the NWS said in its warning just after 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“At this forecast point, the river is currently in Action Stage and is expected to rise to Minor Flood by early Thursday afternoon, rising further to Major Flood stage by Saturday morning, potentially reaching Record Flood Stage early Sunday morning.”:

The weather service said that those along the river should be prepared for major flood impacts. Due to wind effects and drainage from upstream, the river is forecast to remain in Major Flood into early next week, the NWS said.

The National Weather Service's forecast for record flooding on the St. Johns River in Seminole County, caused by heavy rains from Hurricane Ian.

As of 11 p.m., Ian’s center had moved inland about 70 miles south of Orlando with sustained winds down to 90 mph, a Category 1 hurricane, moving north-northeast at 8 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend out 45 miles with tropical-storm-force winds extending out 175 miles.

Further weakening is expected as Ian emerges over the western Atlantic by late Thursday, but forecasters believe Ian may maintain hurricane strength as it moves across the center of Florida overnight.

As of 10:20 p.m. there over 2 million people without power as Hurricane Ian whipped through the state, according to poweroutage.us. The majority of those outages were in the southwestern portion of Florida where the storm made landfall.

In Central Florida, Polk County had the most outages with 125,000.

Volusia County has closed most bridges in the area, according to a press release. As of Wednesday night:

Daytona Beach

  • 1-92 International Speedway Bridge is closed until further notice.
  • Main Street Bridge is closed until further notice.
  • Orange Ave. Bridge is closed until further notice.
  • Seabreeze Bridge is closed until further notice.

New Smyrna Beach

  • North and South Causeways are closed until further notice.
  • Barracuda Bridge is closed until further notice.

Ormond Beach

  • Granada Bridge remains open because the weather conditions within the City of Ormond Beach do not currently meet the requirements for a closure. The city will continue to monitor the winds and will issue an update should the need arise.

Port Orange/Daytona Beach Shores/Ponce Inlet

  • Dunlawton Bridge is closed until further notice.

David Harris

Hurricane Ian is down to a Category 2 storm as it heads inland through the Florida Peninsula after making landfall earlier Wednesday as a Cat 4 storm.

It was located about 40 miles northeast of Punta Gorda and 85 miles south-southwest of Orlando as of 9 p.m. while hitting the state with “catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding,” the National Hurricane Center said. It was moving north-northeast at 8 mph.

A University of Florida Coastal Monitoring Program wind tower located near Punta Gorda recently reported sustained winds of 55 mph with a wind gust of 78 mph . The automated station at the Punta Gorda Airport measured a gust of 109 mph just before 8 p.m.

David Harris

The Florida Highway Patrol had to remove a tree that fell on Interstate 4 on Wednesday evening.

It blocked at least one westbound lane between Maitland and Altamonte Springs, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.

“We’d like everyone to stay off the road if possible,” the tweet said. “As #HurricaneIan moves north, conditions in Seminole County will deteriorate. Please stay safe!”

A Naples Fire-Rescue Department station flooded because of the massive storm surge brought in by Hurricane Ian.

But it didn’t stop crews from rescuing a woman who needed help nearby. Holding bags over their heads, rescuers were able to take the woman inside and to higher ground to safety, a video posted on the department’s Facebook page showed.

Firefighters also had to push a fire truck outside because of concerns that it could catch fire. In waist-high water, they unloaded the truck and took items inside.

Naples is in Collier County, where the sheriff’s department reported on Facebook that it was getting “a significant number of calls of people trapped by water in their homes” and that it would prioritize reaching people “reporting life threatening medical emergencies in deep water.”

David Harris and the Associated Press

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he toured parts of the county this afternoon and could already see some debris that had already blown out of the trees.

“We have not come close to seeing the worst of the wind speeds within our county,” he added in a late afternoon press briefing, adding that the worst would come early Thursday morning. “We’re also anticipating up to two feet of rain.”

He warned that the community should expect widespread power outages.

“The strongest threat from Hurricane Ian is projected to come to our county late tonight,” Demings said “Winds are expected between 55 to 70 mph with gusts up to 100 miles an hour.”

Sporadic power outages have been reported throughout Orange County and more are expected tonight, Demings said at his 6 p.m. hurricane briefing.

Demings mentioned outages reported in the Maitland/Winter Park area and in Orlando near Leu Gardens, the botanical attraction at 1920 North Forest Avenue.

“We have been working with various utility companies to make certain that we are taking care of the needs of the residents who are without power,” the mayor said.

Demings also read a statement on behalf of the Orlando Utilities Commission declaring the utility is ready to respond to outages to restore power as quickly as possible.

More than 100 out-of-state crews are stationed here to help. The utility suggested customers sign up for alerts on outages. To sign up, customers should text reg to 69682.

The utility will respond by asking for your 10-digit account number, then your zip code.

The mayor also offered tips about how to respond to a power loss.

“I will remind everyone that during periods of widespread and extended power outages residents are asked to reduce their water usage where possible,” he said.

The Orlando Utilities Commission or OUC provides electric, water, chilled water and/or lighting services to about 400,000 accounts. When power is restored, it is important to limit large, immediate water use in baths and showers and in appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.

Almost every kind of water treatment system requires electricity.

Stephen Hudak

Across Osceola County’s five general population shelters and one special needs shelter a total of 572 residents have checked in, according to a news release.

Shelters were no longer accepting residents as of around 3 p.m. Wednesday as road conditions were deemed no longer safe, the county said in a news release. Osceola County officials are asking residents to shelter in place for the next 24 to 48 hours as Hurricane Ian passes over Central Florida.

Currently there is no mandatory evacuation or curfew in effect, according to the release. Residents in low-lying areas, manufactured homes or mobile homes are still asked to move to a safer location.

Natalia Jaramillo

Seminole emergency officials said they will hold off enacting a countywide curfew until storm conditions become too dangerous for people to venture outside.

Alan Harris, director of Seminole’s office of emergency management, said his county will then coordinate any curfew with neighboring counties.

“We’re looking at that regionally…A lot of folks that live here in Seminole work in Orange County and vice versa. So we want to make sure that we’re consistent with our neighbors,” Harris said at the 5 p.m. press conference. “If we start seeing a lot of power lines down on roadways, that will factor into it.”

A little more than 300 people have checked into Seminole’s eight emergency shelters since 8 a.m. Wednesday, when the county opened the facilities.

“So there’s plenty of space there for people to take advantage of them,” he said.

However, he urged residents to check into the shelters before storm conditions make it too dangerous to venture outside.

Seminole also has deployed “high-water” vehicles into the Geneva community and the area near the Little Wekiva River in Altamonte Springs to be ready when those areas begin to flood, said Chief Matt Kinley, of the Seminole County Fire Department.

The National Weather Service notified Seminole emergency officials that flooding along the Little Wekiva River are forecasted to reach “historic levels,” Harris said.

“If you’ve flooded in the past, then you may want to go ahead and evacuate,” he said.

Martin Comas

About 2,500 prisoners across 23 facilities impacted by Hurricane Ian have been evacuated, the Florida Department of Corrections announced Wednesday.

Facilities in Pinellas, Manatee, Duval, Columbia, Orange, Polk, Alachua, St. Lucie, Hernando, Gilchrist, Leon, Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties were evacuated to larger facilities that are better equipped to weather the impacts of the storm, FDC said.

Those facilities include community work release centers and work camps. The department was not immediately available to clarify which facilities inmates were relocated to.

The following facilities have been evacuated:

  • Bradenton Bridge
  • Bridges of Jax
  • Bridges of Lake City
  • Bridges of Santa Fe
  • Ft. Pierce CRC
  • Hernando CI
  • Jax Bridges
  • Lancaster Work Camp
  • Largo Road Prison
  • Miami North CRC
  • Opa Locka CRC
  • Orlando CRC
  • Reality House
  • Shisha House
  • St. Pete CRC
  • Suncoast CRC
  • Tallahassee CRC
  • Tomoka CRC
  • Tomoka Work Camp
  • TTH Bartow
  • TTH of Dinsmore
  • TTH Tarpon Springs
  • Turning Point

Loved ones of prisoners are being told inmate locations will be posted on the website 24 hours after relocation.

Other facilities that may be affected by the storm are being equipped with bagged meals, additional generators, extra water and portable light fixtures.

FDC said all correctional officers and institutional staff are working throughout the duration of the storm.

Staff from non-impacted regions will be deployed to provide additional support after the storm passes, as needed, FDC said in the release. Maintenance teams from other regions have been staged to deploy after the storm.

Amanda Rabines

The storm may have claimed the lives of several Cuban migrants whose vessel sunk in the Florida Straits near the Florida Keys, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The USGS stated that after four migrants made it to shore near Block Island, a search for the remaining 23 began.”

Crews rescued three people in the water about 2 miles south of Boca Chica,” the USGS stated on Twitter. “They were brought to the local hospital for symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration. Air crews are still searching.”

Power outages were beginning to pile up across the state. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, more than 1 million people in the state were without power, mostly in Collier, Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties according to poweroutage.us.

Hurricane Ian made landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane near Cayo Costa with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. The minimum pressure from Air Force Reconnaissance Hurricane Hunters was 940 MB, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Usually lively and colorful, Orlando’s downtown Lake Eola was eerily battened down Wednesday afternoon under a steel sky and in 30 mph easterly gusts that whipped at Eola’s signature fountain and kicked up white caps near the Disney amphitheater. Absent were the swan boats (hauled out and stored), squirrels, flags, playground users, patrons of Relax Grill, access to public bathrooms, religion proselytizers, charity solicitors, joggers, cops on bikes, dog walkers and all but one homeless person. The famed swans as well as pelicans, herons, pigeons, geese and ibis were present but subdued, or possibly gloomy over a night of rising squalls to come.

Kevin Spear

Using a loudspeaker, Orange County Fire Rescue crews warned mobile home residents Tuesday afternoon to evacuate and go to the nearest shelter as Hurricane Ian approaches.

The agency shared a video on social media of a crew on a fire truck notifying a mobile home community shortly after 2:30 p.m.

https://twitter.com/OCFireRescue/status/1575192400057708544?s=20&t=1iZ4J3eeBm6j3fLwcw2utQ

“Hurricane Ian is expected to impact this area with high winds and heavy rain,” the OCFR crew announced to residents. “An evacuation of all mobile homes is recommended.”

Monivette Cordeiro

NWS Meteorologist Cassie Leahy said Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties should expect hurricane conditions, with winds of 50 to 70 mph and gusts of 90 to 100 mph. In Lake County, the prediction was slightly better, with gusts of 75 to 80 mph expected.

Leahy said the biggest worry for the Orlando area will not be the wind, but the water.

“That is our biggest concern, even with as high as the winds are going to be,” she said. “We’re expecting it could be historic flooding for sure, especially across the rivers up there. … People need to be prepared that this could be historic flooding that they haven’t seen.”

About 12 to 18 inches of rainfall is expected across the region with local highs up to two feet, Leahy said.

Jeff Weiner

Oak Ridge High School, operating as a shelter, is no longer accepting residents as conditions worsen from Hurricane Ian, according to an Orange County news release.

But officials have now opened Memorial Middle School, near Rio Grande Park, as a sixth shelter operating in the county. It’s not open for pets. Ocoee High School and Dr. Phillips High School remain open as general-population shelters.

Apopka High School and Timber Creek High School are open as pet-friendly shelters, the release states.

Orlando International Airport has ceased operations with the last flight out at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The airport’s jetways have been secured, ticket counters and kiosks have been covered with plastic, shuttle trains have been sheltered, nonessential personnel have evacuated and nearly all aircraft have departed.

The passenger jets still at the airport will be tied down or hangared at the airport’s west and north sides away from terminals.

Airport director Kevin Thibault said reopening could come as soon as Friday, with hours of work required to assess damage, to undo storm preparations and bring employees back to their work stations. Any damage, including from flooding and from rain intruding into the terminals and outlying departure hubs would further delay reopening, he said.

The airport’s new Terminal C is designed to withstand 150 mph winds. The original terminals A and B are several decades old.

Orlando’s executive airport east of downtown also has ceased operations.

Acting NHC Director Jamie Rhome encouraged those in Central Florida not to wait before hunkering down with heavy rains coming.

“Absolutely the I-4 corridor is a high risk of very heavy rain, that will produce flash flooding, impassable roads,” he said. “I’m telling you, you just need to get where you’re going, to stay and plan to be there. We lose so many people after a storm because they get out and wander about it, drive into flooded roads, powerlines might be down they just encounter. I know you want to see what happened. I know you want to see if your house, your neighborhood is OK. But please stay inside until conditions allow you to safely move about.”

At 12:50 p.m. the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for a portion of east Central Florida including Brevard, Orange, Osceola and Volusia.

“Flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations is imminent or occurring,” the statement reads as already 2-4 inches have fallen from the outer bands of Ian with another 2-3 possible this afternoon.

DeSantis on Wednesday afternoon said the state will be issuing a major disaster declaration for all 67 counties to seek the federal government to reimburse 100% of upfront costs from the first 60 days after Ian’s landfall “to ensure that we can quickly recover and move forward into the response and recovery part.”

He said there are more than 250 aircraft, more than 1,600 high water vehicles and more than 300 boats of all drafts and sizes to be used in recovery efforts such as delivering supplies.

“I want to say thanks to a lot of people who offer thoughts and prayers for the folks that are in the eye of the storm and that means a lot to us,” he said. “There’s also people that want to be able to do their part.”

To that end, DeSantis directed the activation of the Florida Disaster Fund so people can donate funds rather than sending items.

“We have everything we need in terms of the immediate response needs, but there will be thousands of Floridians who will need help rebuilding,” he said.

To contribute people can visit www.FloridaDisasterFund.org or text “disaster” to 20222.

DeSantis gave a sobering view of how the storm will be remembered.

“I would just say it seems like over the last 12 to 24 hours every time you look at this storm, it’s just been bad news. It gets stronger, larger,” he said. “This is a really, really significant storm. It will be one of the storms people always remember when they think about Southwest Florida — probably be the big one. They always remember and if you know anything about our state and you go to Panama City, you know that Michael is just part of the DNA of the community. Homestead — Hurricane Andrew just part of the DNA — and this is going to rank up there with that, so we need the thoughts and prayers over the near term, and then there’s going to be a huge effort on the back end, to help people and to get the communities back on their feet.”

DeSantis also said he was “appreciative of the Biden administration for responding in this time of need.”

Orange County residents should hunker down and stay off roadways starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Demings said, as officials predict winds will pick up starting then.

The county is “within the crosshairs” of the storm, which has neared Category 5 strength and will bring tropical storm and hurricane-force winds by the time it crosses the state and reaches Central Florida. Hurricane Ian could dump two feet of rainfall over the next 36 hours here, the mayor said at a news conference Wednesday.

“That means we’re going to have some localized flooding,” he said. “The winds are expected to arrive as soon as 2 p.m. today.”

Five shelters throughout the county are open and accepting residents: Apopka High School, Ocoee High School, Dr. Phillips High School, Oak Ridge High School and Timber Creek High School.

Citing data from Visit Orlando, Demings said occupancy at area hotels is about 85%, meaning there’s still room for evacuees, or those seeking a last-minute place to ride out the storm.

Teams of law enforcement and fire crews are visiting mobile home parks in the county in known low-laying areas hoping to encourage residents to evacuate. Demings said 13 parks are of concern. LYNX, the region’s bus service, has provided 13 buses to help transport people to shelters.

“What we’re trying to do is mitigate the impact on our residents by evacuating those areas,” he said.

A flood watch continues for all of east central Florida through late Thursday night, according to a Wednesday morning update from National Weather Service Melbourne meteorologist Kole Fehling.

“Major flooding impacts are expected to develop throughout the day, and widespread heavy rainfall is expected to continue through Thursday night. Storm total rainfall amounts are forecast to range from 12 to 18 inches with localized amounts greater than 20 inches occurring over areas north of a line from Kissimmee to near New Smyrna Beach,” the statement reads.

From 8 to 15 inches are expected from Melbourne to Lake Kissimmee with some areas getting 18 inches while 4-8 inches with isolated areas of 12 inches are expected farther south, the NWS said.

“This amount of rainfall will cause major flooding for portions of the area, especially for locations that have already received high rainfall amounts over the past 7 days,” the statement reads. “Creeks and rivers that are already approaching bankfull will overflow, leading to substantial flooding. Urban locations and low-lying areas are especially vulnerable with an inundation of major roadways and flooding of structures possible,” said National Weather Service Melbourne meteorologist Kole Fehling in Melbourne.

Fehling said, by comparison, the most rainfall that Orlando has ever experienced over a three-day period has been 13.75 inches.

“The normal value for the amount of rainfall over the entire year is about 52 inches,” Fehling said. “So if we were to see those higher-end totals, we could be experiencing half of our total annual rainfall in a very short period of time.”

He also predicted sustained winds of 55 to 65 mph in the region, with hurricane-force gusts of up to 80 mph.

The strongest winds are expected to arrive Thursday evening.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared with power company linemen awaiting deployment during a press conference in Lake City noting the storm was likely to bring tragic results.

“So just understand the impact of the storm is going to be enormous,” he said. “There’s obviously some people who are in harm’s way by choice having hunkered down in their areas and we’re praying for them. Obviously, there’s going to be rescue efforts made as soon as it’s safe to do so. … It’s going to be a tragic event in many ways. But it’s something that we’re going to dig in on. We’re going to be there. We’re going to stand with the people who are most affected.”

He also added, “we understand it’s not just a 48-hour ordeal. It’s going to be something that is going to be there for days and weeks and months and unfortunately, in some circumstances, even years, but that’s just what we’re called upon to do.”

“So we’ll be standing there and we will marshal the resources that we need to be able to serve the people that are most affected by this,” he said. “I want to thank the men and women who are standing behind me right now.”

During a briefing around 9:30 a.m., Lake County Commission Chairman Sean Parks said the county is “as ready for this as we could ever be,” with Hurricane Ian’s winds expected to arrive within two to four hours.

Parks said the county had accepted more than 300 people into local shelters and distributed about 35,000 sandbags.

“The primary hazards of concern are damaging hurricane winds of course, strong tropical storm force winds as well, with dangerous gusts. Widespread flooding from the rain – that’s one issue that we’re particularly concerned about,” he said.

Residents, he said, “should be finalizing their plans” for Ian.

“You still have a little bit of time to do that,” he said.

Parks expressed confidence that the county recover from whatever destruction Ian brings.

“We know the damage is going to come, and it could be varied from the north part to the south part of the county, but the one thing that we do know is it will not change the heart and spirit of the county,” he said. “We’ll pull together through this.”

Orlando Health is pausing all elective surgeries and procedures scheduled for after 2 p.m. Wednesday through the end of the day Thursday, according to a Tuesday evening news release. The exact timing of the cancellations may change depending on the weather.

In-person office visits are canceled as well. The hospital system encourages patients to contact their doctor to schedule a virtual visit or reschedule their appointment.

The news release advises pregnant people who have an induction or cesarean section scheduled during the storm to consult with their physician, as should other pregnant people who are close to their due date.

Emergency rooms — including free-standing buildings — and the Scripts Pharmacy at Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital and at the Orlando Health Cancer Institute will continue to be available during the storm.

Visiting hours will not change, the news release notes.

As Hurricane Ian closes in on Florida, images of water receding along the coast began showing up on social media.

In Tampa, in a similar way seen during Hurricane Irma in 2017, the water receded along Bayshore Boulevard, according to a post by the Tampa Police Department.

Similar scenes were seen farther south in Venice with the NWS in Tampa warning, “The water WILL come back. Please do not attempt to walk there or any other location with receding water.”

Power outages were beginning to pile up across the state.

As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, more than 150,000 people in the state are without power, mostly in Collier, Miami-Dade, Charlotte, Lee, Sarasota, Manatee, Broward and Palm Beach counties according to poweroutage.us.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is speaking from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee along with Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and the National Guard’s Maj. Gen. General James O. Eifert.

The press conference will be streamed at thefloridachannel.org

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke from the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee at 7 a.m. saying southwest Florida county residents need to now stay in place. ”If you are in any of those counties, it’s no longer possible to safely evacuate,” he said. “It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm. This is a powerful storm that should be treated like you would treat it if a tornado were approaching your home. If you’re out on the roads get to a safe place as soon as possible.”He also warned about dangers after the storm passes.”I urge you to be cautious. Avoid downed power lines. Avoid standing water, stay clear of damaged trees,” he said. “If you are using a generator for power make sure that that is being operated outside your home do not operate that indoors and then don’t drive in flooded streets — people will look and think they can drive through it and it doesn’t work out well for them.”

Hurricane Ian 80 miles south-southwest of Charlotte County, “knocking on the door of a Category 5 hurricane,” Gov. said just now. Expecting landfall later today. A storm of this magnitude will cause life-threatening storm surge, DeSantis said. No longer safe to evacuate if you are in the strike zone. Time to hunker down. Forty thousand homes are without power right now. Bridges closed. Cortez road, and John Ringling Causeway, among others, closed because of winds over 40 mph. “You are going to see more bridges suspended given the ferocity of this storm.” Don’t go outside in the eye of the storm. Still dangerous. Difficult to get back into your homes. “This is a major, major storm.”

Seminole County this morning ordered the evacuation of residents who live in flood-prone areas, mobile and manufactured homes, and people with special needs as Hurricane Ian heads into the Florida peninsula and is expected to bring almost a foot of rain.

County officials also opened eight shelters at public schools across Seminole:

•Lake Mary High School, 655 Longwood Lake Mary Road, Lake Mary

•Lawton Chiles Middle School, 1240 Sanctuary Drive, Oviedo

•Lyman High School, 865 Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood (Pet friendly)

•Midway Elementary School, 2368 Brisson Ave., Sanford

•Winter Springs High School, 130 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs (Pet friendly)

Shelters for individuals with special needs:

•Bentley Elementary School, 2190 S. Oregon Ave., Sanford (Pet friendly)

•Layer Elementary School, 4200 FL-419, Winter Springs

Cots will not be provided at the general population shelters.

County officials said the shelters should be used as a last resort, and residents should check with family and friends to shelter before heading to the county facility.

Power outages were beginning to pile up across the state. As of 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, more than 80,000 people in the state are without power, mostly in Miami-Dade, Sarasota, Collier, Charlotte, Lee, Broward and Palm Beach counties according to poweroutage.us.

Orange County’s Emergency Operations Center, located near Full Sail University in Winter Park, will be staffed with about 100 people, likely more, during the storm.

The Orange County Convention Center on International Drive in the tourist corridor is housing three FEMA teams and many of the trucks and other heavy equipment expected to be needed during the emergency response.

Here are updated locations and opening times for Orange County’s hurricane shelter:

  • Apopka High School, 8 a.m. (pet friendly)
  • Dr. Phillips High School, 9 a.m.
  • Oak Ridge High School, 9 a.m. (pet friendly)
  • Ocoee High School, 9 a.m.
  • Timber Creek High School, 9 a.m. (pet friendly)

Visit ocfl.net/shelters for important information on what to bring with you to a shelter.

For Orange County residents requiring a Special Needs/Medical Shelter please dial 3-1-1 or 407-836-3111.

They have been identified as Olympia High School, 4301 S Apopka Vineland Road, and University High School, 2450 Cougar Way near Union Park in east Orange County.

Orange County Animal Services will be staffed by eight to 10 people who will stay overnight to provide care for shelter animals through the duration of the storm, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced.

The shelter, located at 2769 Conroy Road near the Mall of Millenia, is equipped with backup power generators.

Ocoee City Hall is closed today through Friday because of Hurricane Ian.

City Hall will return to normal operations Monday — depending on conditions.

Trash won’t be collected today or Thursday.

Depending on the storm’s impact, normal collections will resume Friday.

Ocoee plans to staff a citizens hotline beginning at 8 a.m. to answer hurricane-related questions throughout the storm. The number is 407-554-7173.

Residents visited sandbag locations at Orange County parks in droves this week.

According to county estimates, 170,000 sandbags were filled and hauled away by concerned residents, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.

Orange County Fire Rescue teams are heading out this morning to visit all mobile home parks, encouraging residents to consider staying with family or friends during the storm.

“I want you to listen very carefully to what I’m about to say,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a press briefing Tuesday night. “It is recommended that residents consider evacuating flood prone areas sooner than later. We want to take it seriously. We do not want to have a situation where because of flooding, persons cannot leave their neighborhoods.”

He then cited areas where residents have previously reporting flooding during heavy rains, including Lakes of Windermere at Peachtree-Reams Road and Oasis-Reams Road, both in the Horizon West area of west Orange; Orla Vista and Westside Manor in the Pine Hills area; and Bonny Brooke-Oakridge Road near John Young Parkway.

“Remember the forecast calls for heavy rains that will cause accessibility issues due to the predicted high water levels,” the mayor said. “Orange County has already been oversaturated with rain. Another word of caution. If you have encountered street flooding in the past during regular rainstorms, you may want to consider evacuating as well as the streets may prove difficult to be reached by emergency response teams.”

Forecasts call for 12 to 18 inches of rain today and Thursday, possibly more.

The National Weather Service extended its tornado watch up into Central Florida on Wednesday morning as the outer bands of Hurricane Ian sweep through the state.

The watch now includes Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk and Brevard counties. The tropical system has already spawned several tornadoes in South Florida with multiple tornado warnings issued overnight.

A possible tornado in Palm Beach County damaged at Kings Point west in Delray Beach left two hospitalized and another 35 people displaced, said Capt. Tom Reyes, a spokesperson for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

About 9:15 p.m., fire rescue crews were called about the possible tornado at the Normandy and Piedmont buildings in Kings Point, Reyes said. Crews found “widespread damage” to several cars and structural damage to some buildings, along with uprooted trees.

The storm had already spawned two that caused damage in Broward County officials with the National Weather Service in Miami said.

Richard Tribou

Power outages were beginning to pile up across the state. As of 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, more than 44,000 people in the state are without power, mostly in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties according to poweroutage.us.

Richard Tribou

At a late night press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Hurricane Ian will have widespread affect throughout Florida with dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and “catastrophic” flooding.

“This is a lot of nasty weather we’re in store for these next couple of days,” he said.

DeSantis also said he expected power outages to be “in the millions” and there were 30,000 utility workers ready to restore electricity once the storm passes.

For those evacuating, there are 176 shelters statewide. He also said hotels are largely relaxing their pet policies for those traveling with pets.

“We think it’s very important that you don’t leave your pets behind,” he said. “Bring your pets with you. They need you during this time.”

At least two tornadoes caused by Hurricane Ian touched down in Broward County on Tuesday night, the National Weather Service Miami said.

The first tornado moved over Weston, Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and Davie about 7:30 p.m., the weather service said.

“The environment will be favorable for tornado development over the next couple of hours,” the weather service said in a Tweet.

The second tornado moved over a similar path through Pembroke Pines, Davie and Cooper City. The area is under a tornado warning until 8:15 p.m., the weather service said.

Orange County Fire Rescue crews are visiting mobile home parks throughout the county Wednesday to encourage residents to evacuate during the storm, according to a press release.

Peak winds are expected to be as high as 74-80 mph and with 12-18 inches of rain possible.

Officials also announced the closure of Reams Road, from Bay Court to the Disney Parking Lot at 9 a.m. Wednesday until further notice.

Other areas that are prone to flooding, include:

  • Lakes of Windermere at Peachtree-Reams Road
  • Oasis-Reams Road
  • Orla Vista/Westside Manor
  • Bonny Brooke-Oakridge/John Young

Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended tolls on Central Florida toll roads until further notice in preparation for Hurricane Ian, the Central Florida Expressway Authority announced Friday evening.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, drivers will not have to pay tolls throughout the 125-mile expressway system that stretches across Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

The system includes 865 lane miles, 73 interchanges, 14 mainline toll plazas, five mainline gantries, 74 ramp toll plazas and 343 bridges and eight named expressways.

The CFX headquarters in Orlando will be closed effective Wednesday and will resume regular hours on Monday. The E-PASS Customer Service Walk-In Center will also be closed and the E-PASS Call Center will remain open with limited staffing, according to the announcement.

UCF football’s home game vs. SMU, originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, has been moved to Sunday, the American Athletic Conference announced on Tuesday.

Kickoff inside FBC Mortage Stadium between the Knights and the Mustangs is set for 1 p.m. the conference said.

The broadcast designation, on the ESPN Family of Networks, will be announced at a later date according to the conference.

The last sandbag distribution center in Osceola County at the St. Cloud civic center will continue to fill sandbags until 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The St. Cloud Civic Center has distributed an estimated 15,000 sandbags so far today, according to St. Cloud spokesperson Maryemma Bachelder.

The civic center opened Tuesday at noon and will close at 7 p.m.

Another Osceola County sandbag distribution center at the Osceola County Heritage Center will close at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The Osceola Heritage Center has filled over 216,000 sandbags over the last three days, according to a news release.

Two new shelters opened in Osceola County at Narcossee Middle School and a pet-friendly shelter at Liberty High School.

Publix stores across the Orlando area will close Wednesday as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida, the Lakeland-based grocer’s website shows.

Customers can check details on their specific store at publix.com, but a check by the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday evening of many stores in the Orlando area show they are listed to close at 6 p.m. Wednesday and reopen on Friday.

Publix updated when exactly stores will close throughout the day Tuesday.

As of Tuesday evening, 448 of Publix’s 1,312 stores were expected to have modified hours.

As Hurricane Ian strengthens over the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Department of Corrections announced Tuesday it will be canceling visitation hours statewide throughout the weekend.

Effective through Oct. 2, no visitors will be permitted at any of the major institutions, work camps, work release centers or annex facilities.

FDC said it will resume normal visitation “as soon as possible” and encourages loved ones of prisoners who want to receive updates on visitations and closures to text “FDCVISIT” to 888-777.

Walt Disney World theme and water parks will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. Additional information will be shared soon on DisneyWorld.com/weather.

Central Florida hospitals are gathering supplies to ensure they can continue to provide service as Hurricane Ian inches closer to the region.

AdventHealth Central Florida has stockpiled thousands of gallons of water and has generators ready to power its hospitals in the event power is lost, said spokesperson Jeff Grainger.

We do not anticipate any service interruptions,” he said. “Family members of patients can rest assured that the hospital will be a safe place for their loved ones during the storm. We will be fully staffed and continue to deliver our excellent standard of care.”

Orlando Health is also making preparations to ensure sufficient staffing and medical supplies, said spokesperson Sabrina Childress.

“Orlando Health takes each hurricane event seriously and prepares accordingly. Preparedness measures are underway and will continue to evolve in response to weather changes,” Childress said. “During inclement weather events, our priority remains the safety and care of all patients.”

HCA Florida Healthcare, too, will have adequate staffing, medications, medical supplies, food and water during the storm for its five Central Florida hospitals, as well as backup generator power, said Richard Hammett, president of the HCA Healthcare North Florida Division.

“We continue to monitor Hurricane Ian as it progresses and will be ready for any changes that may take place in the next 24-48 hours. With the support of HCA Healthcare’s National Command Center, HCA Florida Healthcare hospitals have access to information, resources, and support from a network of experts and care sites across the state and nation,” Hammett said in a statement.

Florida residents should only come to hospitals if they need medical attention. They are not equipped to serve as emergency shelters. Seminole County opening emergency shelters Wednesday | 3:36 p.m. Tuesday

Seminole County will open eight emergency shelters at 8 a.m. on Wednesday at area public schools for residents looking for refuge from Hurricane Ian.

The county will then announce an evacuation order for residents who live in flood-prone areas, mobile homes and persons with disabilities.

At the 3 p.m. press conference, however, county emergency officials held off naming the shelters and locations until they have them fully prepared for the influx of residents.

But residents should first try to find shelter in other areas — such as at a family member’s home or friend’s house — before deciding on a county emergency shelter, officials said.

“Shelters are places of last resort,” said Alan Harris, Seminole director of the county’s office for emergency services.

Residents with special needs should call the county’s hurricane hotline at 407-665-0000 if they need to stay at a shelter.

“Seminole County is planning for extremely high winds, heavy rains and possible tornadoes,” Harris said.

Sheriff Dennis Lemma urged residents to stay off the roads during the storm because of the danger of flying debris and flooded roads.

Lemma noted that his office has increased the number of deputies, along with city police officers, who will be patrolling the county.

“Any person committing a crime during a state of emergency will be dealt with appropriately,” Lemma said.

Shoppers looking for last-minute supplies and groceries from Publix in south Lake County as well as west of Kissimmee still have some time, but face a deadline as Hurricane Ian approaches.

While the Lakeland-based grocer hasn’t revealed changed hours for many of its Orlando area stores yet, at least nine stores in Clermont, Groveland, Minneola, and Kissimmee are expected to close at 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to the grocer’s website as of Tuesday afternoon. They are currently set to reopen Friday.

The stores were earlier listed as closing on Tuesday, and Publix has since updated its site with them closing Wednesday. Customers can check for updates on their stores at publix.com.

Even more stores west and southwest of Kissimmee, including in Davenport, are also expected to temporarily shutter.

Universal Orlando Resort, including CityWalk, will close on Wednesday and Thursday, with tentative plans to reopen on Friday as conditions permit.

Universal Orlando said its hotels are currently at full capacity and will remain operational.

The park planned two of its Halloween Horror Nights events on Wednesday and Thursday, both of which will be canceled. For more information and FAQs, visit https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/plan-your-visit/weather-updates/severe-weather.html.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated Hurricane Ian’s minimum pressure has decreased to 952 MB. It is now located about 255 south of Sarasota.’

The next full update will be at 5 p.m.

Residents fill sandbags in Osceola County ahead of Hurricane Ian.

At Osceola County Heritage Park sandbag distribution, the line snakes around the entire park.

Osceola County maintenance worker, Thomas Compton, hands out bundles of 25 bags to cars stopping at his pickup truck with a large blue tarp set up just behind.

“It’s been a steady stream of cars the whole time we’ve been open,” Compton said. “It’s been crazy since Monday because I think that’s when people started to see the storm was coming.”

Compton has worked since Sunday for ten-hour shifts handing out empty sandbag bundles to cars and telling them to “go around the pickup truck and then over there” as he points to a large grass area with various piles of sand and cars huddled around them.

“I think all these people getting sandbags are overreacting,” Compton said as an Ice Cream truck pulls up to the crew of maintenance workers making bundles of sandbags. “Look at that, now we get ice cream.”

Down the line at a sand pile is 57-year-old Ivette Aponte shoveling sand into a bag.

“I’m worried because we live next to two lakes and they are already really full so we’re worried about it flooding into our house,” Aponte said.

Aponte’s 24-year-old flight attendant daughter, Karalise Ferrer, said the family is planning on putting the sandbags in front of their garage door.

“We’re going to fill all 25 sandbags,” Ferrer said. “About five years ago when Hurricane Irma hit we also got sandbags.”

The family lift the heavy bags of sand into the bed of their pickup truck driven by Felix Ferrer, Aponte’s husband and Karalise’s dad.

“I think we’re mostly worried about the rain,” Felix Ferrer said. “We have seen in the past a lot of flooding where we live and I’m worried it will happen again.”

The Osceola County sandbag distribution center at the Osceola Heritage Park will close at 6 p.m. Tuesday with no official word yet if the site will continue operations on Wednesday.





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3rd Circ. Affirms State Farm’s Win In UIM Coverage Dispute

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By Hope Patti · September 29, 2022, 4:36 PM EDT

The Third Circuit upheld a State Farm unit’s win in a putative class action over underinsured motorist coverage, finding Thursday that insurers are not required to seek a waiver to provide…

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