Ian brought flooding to the Florida Keys overnight, as forecasters warned that the impact of rising waters there could worsen over the coming hours.
The eye of the storm was not passing directly over the Florida Keys. The winds there overnight — including gusts of over 60 miles per hour in Key West — were less powerful than those forecast for parts of mainland Florida’s west coast later on Wednesday.
Still, a central concern in the Keys and beyond is that a combination of high tides and rising waters from the storm could cause dangerous flooding in residential areas.
In the lower Florida Keys, a storm surge warning was in effect early Wednesday, hours after a tide gauge at Key West began recording a water level that was about 2.5 feet above normal.
The lower Keys were forecast to see storm surges of two to four feet if a peak surge occurred around the same time as a high tide, the National Hurricane Center said. The next high tide in Key West will be at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
As of early Wednesday morning, no mandatory evacuation orders had been issued for Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys and sits at the very tip of southern Florida.
Some residents of Key West, the county seat, were watching the storm arrive at their doorsteps.
Dylon Estevez, 29, said that water began seeping into his ground-floor apartment there around 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Within an hour, it rose to about 15 inches.
“It was fast and kind of out of nowhere,” he said, recalling that a couple of hours earlier, the wind gusts were strong but the rain seemed light. He had not been paying attention to the rising tide, he said.
Mr. Estevez and his roommate shut off power to the apartment, stashed what belongings they could on higher perches and sloshed through waist-deep water to get to higher ground with his roommate’s dog, Rookie. With most streetlights out, residents would not be able to see the full extent of the damage until dawn, he said.
“Our whole neighborhood, any house on the first floor is going to be pretty engulfed in water,” said Mr. Estevez, a lifelong Key West resident.