Any Floridian knows that living on the Southwestern coast of the U.S. is a venture, considering how close some live to water in Key West. Many residents are usually avidly prepared for a large storm, typically experiencing one once every three years. They board up their windows, have pre-installed steel window panes and covers that residents only put in during tropical/severe storms, purchase elevated houses for preventive measure and simply keep rain gear in their closets. The last storm to hit Florida was Hurricane Irma in 2017.
However, nothing could have prepared anyone for how quickly the eye of this hurricane grew in the Gulf of Mexico overnight, moving inward to knock houses off their foundations in Florida and staking its claim over the daily lives of many.
Hurricane Ian approached the coast Wednesday, Sept. 28, around 3:05 p.m. At the time, the storm was still classified as a high Category 4, but when it made landfall, it began to develop into a Category 5 by mid-day. The night before, it was classified a Category 3.
As this is one of the biggest hurricanes in the U.S. within years according to PowerOutage.us, a website that aggregates data from utilities across the United States, “The storm knocked out power to more than a million customers across Florida,” according to the New York Times. These areas include Lee, Sarasota and Collier counties.
Many users on social media over the past few days have posted videos of the 150 mph winds gusting through homes and palm trees, affecting electricity lines and preventing residents from leaving their homes Sept. 27. At the beginning of Ian’s storm surge, as rain poured down, some residents stayed near the coast and watched as the waves reached high heights, flooding the beaches and surrounding streets. Many began to evacuate in areas such as Tampa where there was an advisory alert or evacuation order, moving to shelters with their most important items to save. As the storm approached so quickly, some areas were being urged to shelter-in at home, waiting out the storm due to issues with traveling safely to a shelter.
The hurricane is set to leave catastrophic damage in its path with damaging winds, rain and flooding. For those hoping to enjoy the sun just like any other day, the Atlantic Ocean’s sky is instead replaced with horrifying deep, dark blues stretched over the distant horizon. Shops are devoid of bottled water, emergency supplies, outdoor industrial straps to tie down items and more. People who have had to flee their flooded homes are trudging under 6.6 inches of rainfall, and through two feet of water in the streets of Monroe County, residents leaning on each other for shelter in other areas. Some cars are stuck among the flood, and trees among house material litter the roads.
Water is approaching the doorsteps of homes, major shopping centers have temporarily closed their doors as the storm has grown hazardous, and residents are bracing for the wind gusts’ damage to hit their homes. If the rainfall and winds overwhelms wastewater sites, wastewater could spill out into major waterways, including Tampa Bay. Residents may not have safe drinking water if this happens. It’s extremely important we recognize the impact Ian will have. The storm likely will not pass over Florida until the weekend, heading toward southeast Georgia and South Carolina. The true extent of damage in Florida won’t be seen for days.
“As the climate warms Earth’s oceans, more storms are undergoing rapid intensification. The last decade has provided a number of examples, among them Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, Hurricanes Michael and Florence in 2018 and Hurricane Ida in 2021,” according to NYT. Global climate change is happening, and it’s affecting us in ways where eventually, it will be hard to keep up and recover from disastrous storms like this. Places such as Puerto Rico, which took massive damage from Hurricane Fiona a week ago, are still recovering from previous natural disasters, and now, we need to be there for residents of Florida and stand in solidarity with those affected. It is important to recognize even though it may not affect some directly, this is a time of uncertainty for communities of people.
This is a scary time for those caught in the storm and the catastrophic results that will be revealed when the sky clears, and the sun shines again. For those who have family and friends living in any areas affected, just know Cardinal Points stands in solidarity. We send hope, love and recovery.