NEW YORK (WABC) -- Eyewitness News reporter Joe Torres is in Florida covering the devastation from Hurricane.
After making landfall in southwest Florida Wednesday as a category 4 storm with 150 mph wind and record storm surge, Hurricane Ian left a trail of devastation by Thursday morning.
Ian is the first Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Rita in 2005.
Thursday, Sept. 29
Hurricane Ian leaves devastation in its wake
A monumental clean-up lies ahead for the people of Punta Gorda. There is damage in every corner of the city.
Eyewitness News reporter Joe Torres saw toppled trees of all shapes and sizes. Limbs, branches and palm fronds covered the roads.
All that flying debris, along with the howling winds of a category 4 hurricane, kept retired New York state corrections officer and Yonkers native Steve Kopp from getting any sleep.
"It was the worst night of my life, and I worked in a prison for 25-years," Kopp said.
Many people rode out the storm at home. Daylight revealed what Ian left behind.
The damage wasn't just on the land.
Along Punta Gorda's waterfront was a boat pinned against the sea wall, and a sailboat more under the water than on the water.
Wednesday, Sept. 28
Naples hit with catastrophic storm surge
An eye-popping scene was captured in the inundated Gulf Coast city of Naples, where the firehouse and the firetrucks city's bravest - flooded.
But that did not stop the firefighters from rescuing people trapped in their homes, which were surrounded by a catastrophic storm surge.
It wasn't just the waves and water that brought a clear and present danger, smoke and fire spewed from power lines and utility poles that could not withstand the brute power of the storm.
In Bradenton, a transformer sparked an orange and then blue explosion.
Roughly 1.6 million utility customers in Florida are without power.
Ian makes landfall in Florida but spares Tampa
The debris on car rooftops in Naples tells the story of a monster storm. The widespread flooding in Fort Myers shows the effects of a catastrophic storm surge.
Then there's the wind, 150 mph hurricane force winds from a Category 4 beast.
Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's Gulf Coast shortly after 3 p.m., but the rain, the flooding, and the damage are far from over.
Meanwhile, people in Tampa can't believe their good fortune. The storm's path stayed south and the feared storm surge that hit other locations never materialized here.
In fact, just the opposite happened. Hillsborough Bay practically emptied.
"The storm takes it out and dumps it somewhere else. Look at how dry it is," Tampa resident Steve Sholeh said.
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Storm creeps closer to Florida
Hurricane Ian was already sending water crashing ashore in Tampa as the storm moved even closer to Florida Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, heavy rain was falling on Downtown Miami and brought with it tornado warnings for some heavily populated areas.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a late night press conference and warned that the state could get hit hard, and it could last for days.
"It's going to exit most likely sometime on Friday morning," DeSantis said. "So this is going to be a lot of impacts. And they will be felt far and wide throughout the state of Florida."
With time running out, residents were doing what they could to prepare.
"It's time to maybe put up the plywood. We've got sandbags and all kinds of anti-flooding devices that we're going to set up here in a little while," Tampa resident Gil Gonzalez said.
Florida braces for impact
Joe Torres touched down in Orlando Tuesday afternoon, in part, because operations in Tampa have stopped as the city braces for Hurricane Ian.
In Orlando, the mayor ordered the closure of non-essential city offices through Friday.
Residents there hoped to stock up on supplies, while most stores in Tampa and the surrounding area closed.
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