Hurricane Ian left massive destruction in its wake as it ripped through Florida on Wednesday, flooding buildings, uprooting trees, and sending cars and houses floating downstream as those in the storm’s path sought safety from the powerful wind and torrential rain.
After making landfall in southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, the storm battered the state with sustained winds upwards of 150 miles per hour and hit the peninsula with what the National Hurricane Center (NHC) described as “catastrophic storm surge.” In some areas, according to state authorities, storm surge reached as high as 12 feet.
Nearly 2 million Floridians were without power as of late Wednesday and many people arrived at emergency shelters unsure of whether they would have a home to go back to in the days ahead. Others, either unable or unwilling to flee, were trapped in their homes and apartment buildings.
It’s unclear how many people the storm has killed as it hammered Florida. As Reuters reported, “U.S. Border Patrol said on Wednesday that 20 people were missing off the coast of Florida after a Cuban migrant boat sank due to Hurricane Ian.” Hurricane Ian killed at least two people in Cuba.
Characterized as one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States, the storm has weakened significantly since mid-afternoon Wednesday. But the NHC said in a Thursday morning update that it is “still likely going to produce strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surge across portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.”
The full extent of Ian’s destruction won’t be clear for weeks. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that President Joe Biden quickly approved his request for a federal disaster declaration, and the president spoke with local officials Wednesday to offer full federal support, according to a White House readout of the calls.
“On Monday morning, Hurricane Ian had wind speeds of 75 miles per hour,” noted Vox‘s Benji Jones and Umair Irfan. “Just 48 hours later, those speeds had more than doubled. On Wednesday, as the storm made landfall in southwestern Florida, Ian’s wind hit 155 mph—just shy of a Category 5 storm, the most severe category for a hurricane.”
Originally published at Commondreams.org.