After causing record-breaking devastation in Western Cuba, Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday, Sept. 28, near Fort Myers, FL, just shy of entering into the Category 5 threshold, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. For days, forecasters had told Florida residents to expect extremely dangerous meteorological conditions, predicting that rains and winds would pound the state’s southwestern coast for hours, even stretching far inland. More than 2.5 million Florida residents were under evacuation orders from Governor Ron DeSantis ahead of the storm’s landfall. On Wednesday, before landfall, DeSantis referred to Ian as “the big one…it will be one of the storms people will always remember.”
Florida’s largest electricity provider, Florida Power and Light Co., warned of irreparable damage from the hurricane, saying that swaths of its grid may require a complete rebuild after Ian’s pummeling. The company’s chief executive, Eric Silagy, has said that while rebuilding efforts are underway, there is no estimate for how long they will take. Silagy has indicated it could take many days or even weeks to rebuild the facilities damaged by the storm.
Ian brought a storm surge of 12 to 18 feet and destructive waves along the southwest coast. Additionally, a causeway leading to Sanibel Island collapsed, portions of Pine Island’s bridge were destroyed, and city officials in Naples, Florida said more than half of its roads were still impassable. More than 1.2 million residents were estimated to have their power knocked out.
As the storm moved away from the Florida coast and into the central part of the state, it dropped heavy rain, and parts of Georgia and South Carolina received more than eight inches of precipitation. Hurricane warnings were also in place in South Carolina, where Ian made landfall for a second time on Friday after strengthening from a tropical storm back into a category one storm. Ahead of Ian’s landfall there, President Biden declared a state of emergency in the Carolinas, and many officials warned of the risks not just to the coast but also further inland, where mudslides and serious flooding could take place.
While storms the size of Ian are rare, meteorologists say that they have become increasingly more common in recent years due to the effects of climate change. Scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have noted that the process of hurricane intensification has become more rapid. This phenomenon is largely linked to carbon emissions from human activity, as warmer sea temperatures are extremely conducive for larger storms. The hurricane underwent two days’ worth of rapid intensification in less than 36 hours.