Gov. DeSantis Visits Counties Affected by Hurricane Ian
FLORIDA—October 26, 2022—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has approved numerous programs to assist in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). The Florida National Guard has worked with local officials in impacted counties on high-water search-and-rescue as well as wastewater removal. There have been 2,500 rescues so far by more than 1,000 emergency responders. Hurricane Ian is responsible for at least 114 deaths in Florida, the most from any Hurricane in nearly 90 years, according to The New York Times.
Gov. DeSantis approved the Dislocated Worker Grant Request and the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, which provides short-term, zero-interest loans to help businesses survive until long-term disaster relief is secured. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operation Blue Roof has been initiated to provide temporary roofing to homes until permanent repairs can be made. This helps to reduce additional property damage and displaces fewer residents as they await restoration services. The Florida Department of Transportation is working to repair roads and bridges as well as constructing temporary bridges to restore access to areas that were cut off by the storm, like Sanibel Island.
So far FEMA has approved more than $450 million in individual assistance, and the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) Program is helping residents find temporary housing. FDEM is working to distribute meals, bottled water, fuel, and other supplies to assist residents as they begin the process of recovery. The department is also working with the Army Corps of Engineers to assess infrastructure like water treatment plans and assisted living facilities, according to FDEM. The department is also monitoring power restoration, debris cleanup, and health concerns related to hurricane aftermath. Boil water notices have been issued in 17 counties, and the Florida Department of Health is providing personnel and resources to all Disaster Recovery Centers. Additionally, the Florida Disaster Fund has raised over $45 million to aid in recovery efforts. Read the full Florida Division of Emergency Management hurricane recovery report here.
October 8, 2022
Hurricane Ian Death Toll Rises as Florida Assesses Damage
FLORIDA—October 8, 2022— Hurricane Ian claimed the lives of more than 100 people, as search-and-rescue efforts continue, according to CNN. Most of these deaths were in Florida with five deaths reported in North Carolina when the storm pushed into the state after making a second U.S. landfall in South Carolina. Rescue workers are going door to door in battered Florida neighborhoods, searching for survivors. Fox Weather reports that as of Friday, October 7, 100,000 structures have been searched and nearly 2,500 people have been rescued. However, many people remain unaccounted for in the hardest-hit areas like Fort Myers Beach, where mountains of debris are slowing search-and-rescue efforts.
More than 2.5 million people in Florida lost power, and crews have been working for more than a week to repair downed power lines. By Tuesday evening, according to CNN, that number was down to about 400,500. Florida Power and Light expected to have most customers outside the hardest-hit areas restored by the end of the day Friday, but crews are just beginning to gain access to the most damaged regions in Lee and Charlotte counties, according to Fox Weather.
Sanibel Island, off the coast of Fort Myers, remains cut off from the mainland after Hurricane Ian destroyed part of the causeway. As one of the hardest-hit locations, Sanibel Fire Chief William Briscoe reports that every structure shows damage and the island remains very dangerous, according to CNN. “There are alligators running around, and there are snakes all over the place,” Briscoe said. On Wednesday, residents were able to return to the island for the first time to assess their damages. Nearby Pine Island is in a similar situation, with officials working to establish temporary bridges and ferries to access the islands. It could take a month to restore power to these islands, as well as Fort Myers Beach, according to CNN.
City officials and homeowners across affected areas have begun the long process of clearing debris, assessing damage, and rebuilding. CNN reports that more than half of Lee County schools were damaged by Ian, and schools in both Charlotte and Lee Counties remain closed until the damages can be addressed. Many structures along the waterfront of Fort Myers Beach were completely demolished by the storm, leaving the popular tourist destination unrecognizable. Forbes reports that total flood and wind losses from Hurricane Ian are estimated to be between $41 billion and $70 billion. These estimates include inland flooding that resulted from heavy rain as the storm cut across Florida. Fox Weather reports that Ian covered 3,500 square miles of Florida with more than 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.
The Carolinas were spared the worst of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall September 30 in Georgetown, South Carolina as a Category 1 storm, flooding the city’s historic district. The 85 mph winds and storm surge damaged piers and boardwalks in resort towns like Pawleys Island and Myrtle Beach, where streets flooded, according to NPR. Between North and South Carolina, more than 600,000 people lost power. There is plenty of debris and downed trees to clean up in the Carolinas, but fortunately power was quickly restored, and the damage is far less severe than in Florida, where recovery will be a years-long process.
September 30, 2022
Hurricane Ian Slams Into Florida as a Massive Category 4 Storm
UNITED STATES—September 30, 2022—After days of shifting forecasts, Hurricane Ian plowed into Southwest Florida, making landfall Wednesday in Lee County as a category 4 storm. Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Sanibel Island are among the hardest-hit areas, but the damage stretches far and wide, extending up and down the coast and across the state to the opposite coast. Four people were confirmed dead according to the AP, but officials expect the death toll will likely rise as rescue workers begin searching the rubble.
Winds up to 155 mph tore apart homes and downed trees and power lines. The New York Times reports at least 2.6 million people were without power Thursday, and most cell service along the coast was down, making it difficult for family members to check on loved ones in the affected areas. Ian is tied as the fifth-strongest storm to hit the U.S., according to the AP.
Most damaging was the storm surge and flooding, which trapped residents in homes and washed out the Sanibel Island causeway, stranding the people who did not evacuate. Storm surge reached 8 to 12 feet in places, and more than 12 inches of rain fell in 24 hours as Ian tore across the state with some areas reporting up to 14 or 15 inches, according to CNN. The surging water submerged cars, washed away piers and docks, and pushed boats up onto the shore, sometimes crashing them into buildings. The U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard have already performed at least 700 rescues in the hardest-hit areas, according to the AP, and search-and-rescue efforts continue.
This is likely to be among the most costly hurricanes in the state’s history. Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s former emergency management chief, said, “Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island look like they will need to be 80 percent rebuilt,” according to The New York Times. Early estimates suggest insured losses could reach $40 billion, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has cautioned that the recovery will take years. The damage isn’t limited to the west coast either. Strong winds and punishing rain pushed across the state, damaging and flooding structures far inland and around Orlando. Ian weakened to a tropical storm as it crossed the east coast and headed back out to sea, but coastal areas from Daytona Beach to Jacksonville experienced storm surge, flooding, and wind damage as well.
Over the open ocean, Ian gained strength again to a category 1 hurricane that will make landfall today on the coast of South Carolina between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. The AP reports tropical storm force winds extend 415 miles from the cyclone’s center, and forecasters predict up to 5 feet of storm surge and 8 inches of rain as Ian comes ashore and pushes inland into North Carolina. Wind damage, flooding, and power outages are expected in affected areas, making Hurricane Ian a multi-state disaster.
September 26, 2022
Hurricane Ian Barrels Toward Florida as Evacuations Begin
FLORIDA—September 26, 2022—Hurricane Ian is in the midst of a rapid intensification as it bears down on Cuba on its way to the Florida Gulf coast. With sustained winds of 80 mph on Monday morning, Ian will strengthen to a major hurricane with winds over 110 mph by the time it hits Cuba early Tuesday, according to NPR. Winds could be as high as 140 mph as the storm approaches the Florida coast on Wednesday and Thursday.
With ongoing uncertainty around the precise track and landfall of Hurricane Ian, about 100 miles of Florida coastline is under hurricane watch including areas around Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg, according to NPR. The storm is expected to remain offshore as it tracks north along the coast toward the panhandle, but its proximity to shore will still bring high winds, heavy rain, storm surge, and possible flooding to many coastal areas. Four to six inches of rain is expected in the Florida Keys with more than eight inches predicted over the west-central coast. Some areas could see as much as 15 inches, according to NPR.
With Tampa as a likely target, forecasters are concerned because the region is especially vulnerable to storm surge and severe flooding as water pushed into Tampa Bay has nowhere to go but into the city. Tampa could see five to eight feet of storm surge in addition to heavy rain, which could cause life-threatening flooding even if the storm doesn’t make a direct hit, according to CNN. Mandatory evacuations for parts of Hillsboro County are already underway, with more evacuation orders expected Tuesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Ian and residents have begun storm preparations. Floridians are stocking up on food, batteries, fuel, and other supplies to weather the storm and the likely power outages. Many residents are also filling sandbags and packing suitcases in case an evacuation is necessary. City officials up and down the coast are working to ensure stormwater systems are clear as schools in Hillsboro County close in order to transition into evacuation centers, according to CNN.
After a slow start to the Atlantic hurricane season, Ian is the fourth hurricane to form since the start of the month. As we move through the peak of the season (typically August-October), the NOAA continues to predict an above average year, expecting 14-20 named storms with 6-10 of those becoming hurricanes.