People Editor and Graphics Editor
Hurricane Ian hit land near Cayo Costa, Florida, on Sept. 28. The Category Four hurricane also left behind devastation in the Caribbean, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and west Cuba before making landfall in southwest Florida. It first formed as a Caribbean tropical storm on Sept. 23 before becoming a Category One hurricane on Sept. 26.
With 150 mph winds, rainfall rising to more than 30 inches, and a surge of higher than 12 feet in some places, Ian is tied as the fifth strongest storm to ever hit the mainland United States. Since 1851 when record-keeping began, 15 Category Four or higher storms, including Ian, have hit Florida. Hurricane Charley, another Category Four storm, hit Florida in nearly the exact same location back in 2004.
Even two weeks after Hurricane Ian, hundreds of homes in central Florida are still submerged with rainwater as the St. Johns river slowly attempts to drain some of the water. As of Oct. 8, the current death toll stands at 127 people from Florida and five people from North Carolina. Lee County reported 56 deaths, the largest number of deaths in a Florida County. Casualties continue to rise as the search and rescue missions are well underway. Carmine Marceno, the Lee County Sheriff, announced during an Oct. 12 press conference that officers are conducting more than 600 well-being checks.
Twenty one-year-old Lander Peck and her family lived on Sanibel Island for 18 years before moving an hour away to play Division 1 soccer at Florida Gulf Coast University. As soon as her parents received the evacuation orders, they immediately went to a hotel in Fort Myers. When Peck learned how bad the hurricane was, she left school to join them at the hotel. The home she grew up in is, “still standing, but the surge ruined everything inside.” Reflecting on all that has been lost in such a quick timespan, Lander explained, “I am devastated for SWFL (Southwest Florida)… everyone was affected in some sort of way. We were fortunate compared to others and we have our health! I am just taking everything day by day.”
One way to help is by donating food, money, or time to the less fortunate. A multi-agency resource center opened in Lee County at the Lakes Regional Library, along with FEMA’s and the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Disaster Recovery Center. Free meal centers, hospices, and drop-off donation locations have popped up on the map.
(Sources: News Press, News 4 Jax, NOAA, ABC News)