Hurricane Ian: Florida braces for category four storm

Millions of Florida residents are bracing for life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds and flooding as the hurricane racing towards its shores intensifies to a category four.

Hurricane Ian, which has already thrashed western Cuba, will reach Florida later on Wednesday.

It is expected to hit the Tampa Bay region - among the most vulnerable places in the US for severe flooding.

It would be the region’s first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.

“It’s been around 100 years since Tampa had a direct hit. They’ve just been lucky for a long time,” said Erik Salna, associate director of the International Hurricane Research Center.

Low elevation, rising sea levels, and a large population increase the risk of a catastrophic tidal surge. The Tampa area has all three, according to Mr Salna.

If hit directly, the region could be “unrecognisable” in the next couple of days, he said. “The potential is there.”