Hurricane Ian has left thousands without power and clean water

The devastation caused by Hurricane Ian left 600,000 homes in Florida without power and many without clean water after the storm battered Florida, Cuba and the US East Coast.


October 3, 2022

Hurricane Ian caused widespread damage in Fort Myers Beach, Florida

REUTERS/Marco Bello

Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s coast on September 27, tearing homes off their foundations and turning roads into waist-deep canals. As of October 3, millions of people in the US were without power and thousands were stranded by high water and damaged roads.

“We are just beginning to see the scale of this devastation. It is likely to rank among the worst … in the nation’s history,” US President Joe Biden said at a September 30 press conference. “It will take months, years to rebuild.”

The category 4 hurricane hit Florida with winds of 150 miles per hour, more than 12 feet of storm surge and more than 16 inches of rain in some areas. Damage is concentrated in Lee County, Florida, which includes the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs and Sanibel Island. Before reaching Florida, the tropical cyclone devastated parts of Cuba, causing blackouts across the island.

Hurricane Ian passed over Florida in the Atlantic and made a second landfall on the South Carolina coast as a Category 1 hurricane on September 30, where it toppled at least four piers along the state’s north coast.

As of October 3, at least 100 people have been confirmed dead, including four in North Carolina and three in Cuba. Officials expect the death toll to rise as search teams comb through the debris and as residents remain cut off from basic necessities such as clean drinking water, electricity and medical care.

About 600,000 Florida homes and businesses were without power as of Oct. 3. Residents in much of the southwestern part of the state have been advised to boil water to reduce pollutants, while others have had no running water at all. Officials say it could be weeks or months before power is fully restored.

“The biggest challenge with restoring power will be in those areas that bear the brunt of Category 4 plus, almost Category 5, where some of the existing infrastructure may have been uprooted,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a briefing for October 1. “Now, this will be fixed – it’s just not something that’s fixed in 24 or 48 hours.”

First responders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are conducting door-to-door searches for residents who need to evacuate. FEMA said on September 30 that it had delivered 1.1 million meals and 1.6 million liters of water to Florida residents struggling after the storm.

Climate researchers warn that southern US states could see more intense hurricanes like Ian in the future, as burning fossil fuels creates warm, humid conditions for tropical cyclones to develop. While scientists still debate whether climate change is making extreme weather events more likely, most agree that it is making hurricanes more intense.

“There is an overwhelming consensus that the storms will get stronger and they will also get wetter,” says Karthik Balaguru at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington. It’s hard to say exactly how climate change contributed to the recent storm, Balaguru says, but Hurricane Ian may be an ominous warning of wetter, more destructive hurricane seasons ahead.

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