The view of Hurricane Ian from the Emergency Operations Center in Punta Gorda, Fla.
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Hurricane Ian made landfall this afternoon near Cayo Costa on the southwest coast of Florida, and it's one of only a handful of storms to make landfall with sustained winds over 150 miles per hour. And now, it is expected to make its way slowly north. More than 1 million homes and businesses are without power. Earlier today, Kevin Guthrie, the Florida Division of Emergency Management director, warned residents.
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KEVIN GUTHRIE: If everything stops, the storm is not over. If you can hear us, if you can see us on your TV, you're most likely to have bright, sunshiny area here very soon. You're in the eye of the storm. Stay inside. Stay indoors. Do not go outside. You do not know when that eye wall will collapse, so please stay safe.
SUMMERS: Joining us now is Sandra Viktorova, a reporter with WGCU. She's at the Emergency Operations Center in Punta Gorda, Fla.
SANDRA VIKTOROVA, BYLINE: Hi. Good afternoon. Well, I can tell you that there's a lot of concern here at the Emergency Operations Center. The folks here don't know how many folks heeded the warning to evacuate. There were 120,000 residents here in Charlotte County alone who were told to leave their homes. That's two-thirds of the population. The concern was about a possible 12 to 16-foot storm surge. We know that about 60,000 of those residents who were being told to leave were living in an area called the red zone.
VIKTOROVA: And that zone, the elevation in those parts are perhaps 6 to 7 feet high at best. So of course, that storm surge was extremely worrisome to folks here.
SUMMERS: As I understand it, Sandra, you were just north of where Ian made landfall. Can you describe for us what it was like when it hit?
VIKTOROVA: Well, I must confess, I have been safe and sound, hunkered down with emergency operations officials. But I can tell you the eye blew over. And, you know, just as it was approaching, even here - I mean, this is practically a bomb shelter, and you could feel the vibration, especially up against the door. And, you know, this building is, of course, got to be one of the safest in the state of Florida. So it was very intense.
Of course, I unfortunately have family and friends who have actually - are in the eye of the storm or have been throughout the day. And, you know, as most people describe it, sort of that freight-train feeling, hoping that, you know, the house is just going to stay together. So it's been worrisome for not only myself, but, of course, a lot of the folks here who, you know, they're doing their best to take care of the residents here across Charlotte County and, of course, wondering about their own homes, their own families and hoping that they're safe.
I had the opportunity to actually go into the call center here. It's an information call center that the county has. This is separate from 911. And essentially, they've received 2,000 phone calls in just...
VIKTOROVA: ...The last few days from folks in Charlotte County. And at first, those calls, you know, over the last few days have been, OK, you know, where's my local shelter? Can I bring my pets? Those calls have changed, you know, over the last 24 hours. You know, the calls last night, you know, were coming from folks saying, do I still have time to leave? And then around midnight, definitely the tone - and into today, very different. Folks then asking for help.
And you can imagine the stress of these operators. Some of them are...
VIKTOROVA: ...You know, folks who work in different departments across the county. Some of them are volunteers, and they know there's nothing that they can do. You know, 911 operators are still taking that information down, but they are not sending first responders out because it's simply too dangerous. So these, you know, volunteers on this information line are taking these calls, but honestly, not being able to just, you know, provide help, but simply...
VIKTOROVA: ...Trying to soothe their nerves and reassure them.
SUMMERS: Right. That is Sandra Viktorova, a reporter with WGCU. She's at the Emergency Operations Center in Punta Gorda, Fla. Thank you, and we hope you stay safe.
VIKTOROVA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.