Stations situated on the southwestern coast of Florida are hustling to keep viewers informed of Hurricane Ian’s frightful trip through the area. That includes stations in Tampa-St. Petersburg (Sarasota), which is DMA No. 13, and Fort Myers-Naples, which is DMA No. 54.
Stations are streaming live to keep users up to date. At WFLA.com just after 3 p.m. ET, meteorologist Jeff Berardelli stressed that Ian was “about to make landfall,” and mentioned wind gusts in the region reaching over 100 mph.
The story changed minutes later. Over in Fort Myers, a live story on WINKNews.com reported that the National Hurricane Center said Ian made landfall at 3:10 p.m. A reporter then shared that station power had gone out, with WINK shifting to a backup generator.
Fort Myers Broadcasting Co. owns WINK.
Part of Nexstar Media Group, the WFLA Tampa website reported that Gov. Ron DeSantis labeled Ian “just shy of a Category 5 hurricane,” and added that the storm would be “incredibly dangerous.”
Elsewhere in Tampa, WTVT meteorologist Dave Osterberg added some perspective to Ian striking Florida. “We don’t expect the track to change,” he said. “The biggest storm surge will come to the right of where it makes landfall. Say it makes landfall in Port Charlotte, then you're going to see this big wall of water coming up into the Fort Myers, Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, up into these rivers. That's going to be a problem — 10-15 feet storm surge for those folks.”
Fox owns WTVT, known as Fox 13. Station newscasts are simulcast on various area radio stations.
Part of Tegna, WTSP Tampa said the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg has been closed. The station website noted a “life-threatening storm surge.”
Spectrum has Bay News 9 in the Tampa area. The website offers a live chat with meteorologists, and shared a story on a family of nine that had moved to the area three days before, then had to evacuate.
On the WBBH Fort Myers website, there’s a list of power outages by county, with Charlotte County counting 64,440 as of 1:15 p.m. Sept. 28. Known as NBC2, WBBH reports can also be heard on a group of local radio stations.
The station is part of Waterman Broadcasting.
Weather.com led with the headline “Landfalling Cat 4 Monster”, which shifted to “Monster Ian Makes Landfall” a short while later. The site reports Ian “making landfall as one of southwest Florida’s most intense hurricanes on record, expected to produce catastrophic storm surge, destructive winds and flooding rainfall.”
Maximum sustained winds are blowing around 155 mph, said Weather.com, and over six feet of storm surge inundation has been measured, more than any other storm in that spot in at least 50 years.
“Hurricane Ian is absolutely pummeling the southwest coast of Florida,” a Weather Channel reporter said. ■
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.