Hurricane Ian battered the southwest Florida peninsula with ‘catastrophic’ storm surge, winds and flooding Wednesday, destroying homes and lifting residences from their foundations as meteorologists predict the monstrous storm will continue to trigger life-threatening conditions in the coming days.
While many residents were evacuated, others ignored these warnings – and local police were reporting a “significant number” of people trapped in water in their homes. Some residents were dealing with life-threatening medical emergencies in deep water.
Landing on Cayo Costa Island near Fort Myers as a Category 4 hurricane with devastating winds topping 150 mph, Ian triggered a ‘catastrophic’ flood of 12 to 18 feet with damaging waves, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Homes were seen being destroyed and other buildings floating off their foundations as the hurricane made landfall in Fort Myers Beach. Catastrophic wind damage blew across the southwest coast of Florida in areas near Ian’s eyewall.
“The Fort Myers area has had some pretty powerful storms. It is by far the largest and most powerful, at least in recorded history,” Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s senior hurricane forecaster, told The Herald on Wednesday.
AccuWeather estimated the total damage and economic loss from Hurricane Ian to be between $100 billion and $120 billion. That would make Ian one of the costliest Storms in US history.
“When you look at the cost of homes in this area, it’s definitely going to be billions of dollars in damage,” said Kottlowski, who is also a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.
Residents who remained in evacuation zones were told to move to the highest point in their homes as the peak storm surge reached an unimaginable height of 12 to 18 feet.
“I’ve been here a long time. Those are big numbers,” National Hurricane Center acting director Jamie Rhome said during a social media briefing. “I haven’t seen numbers like this many times in my career.”
“Just a very devastating event that is starting to unfold unfortunately for the people of Southwest Florida,” he said.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office – based in Naples – was pleading with people to stay off the roads.
“We are receiving a significant number of calls from people trapped in water in their homes,” the sheriff’s office wrote on social media. “Some are reporting life-threatening medical emergencies in deep water. We will address them first.
“Some are reporting water entering their homes but not life threatening,” the sheriff’s office added. “They will have to wait. Maybe until the water recedes.
On Thursday, Ian’s center is expected to cross central Florida and then the state’s east coast later in the day. Ian is expected to turn north on Friday and approach the northeast coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina late Friday.
Widespread and life-threatening catastrophic flooding is expected to continue across the region.
“It’s expected to dump a huge amount of rain, with some areas getting over 2 feet of rain,” Kottlowski told the Herald. “Some spots might even reach 30 to 35 inches when all is said and done. It’s going to be a monstrous rainfall event.
Authorities have long warned of more downed trees, power lines, power outages and impassable roads.
“This storm is wreaking havoc across the state of Florida,” Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference. “He’s going to continue to move in that state today (Wednesday) and for much of tomorrow, and he’s going to continue to have a number of adverse effects.”