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One of most powerful hurricanes ever: Ian batters Florida

Florida has been hit by one of the most powerful storms on record, when Hurricane Ian hit the southern US state in the early morning.

September 28, 2022
By Curt Anderson
28 September 2022

 

Hurricane Ian has left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to two million people before aiming for the Atlantic Coast.

This GOES-East GeoColor satellite image taken at 12.01am EDT on Wednesday shows the eye of Hurricane Ian approaching the southwest coast of Florida. (NOAA via AP)

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States barreled across the Florida peninsula overnight on Wednesday, threatening catastrophic flooding inland, the National Hurricane Center warned.

The center’s 2am advisory said Ian was expected to emerge over Atlantic waters later on Thursday, with flooding rains continuing across central and northern Florida.

In Port Charlotte, along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in a hospital even as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who works there.

A staff member stands in a flooded hallway at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte thanks to Hurricane Ian. (Dr Birgit Bodine via AP)

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some of whom were on ventilators – to other floors, said Dr Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital.

The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients were forced into just two because of the damage.

“As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters,” Bodine said.

Hilton employees secure the front door at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Myers, Florida before Hurricane Ian hit. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Law enforcement officials in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Pleas were also posted on social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing toward homes’ eaves.

Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mother in North Fort Myers, whose home was swamped by 1.5m of water.

“We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know how they’re going to leave, their cars are totaled,” Hailer said. “Her only way out is on a boat.”

Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and blew down trees as it slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 241kph winds, pushing a wall of storm surge. Ian’s strength at landfall was Category 4 and tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind speed, to ever strike the US.

Ian dropped in strength by late Wednesday to Category 1 with 144kph winds as it moved overland. Still, storm surges as high as 2m were expected on the opposite side of the state, in northeast Florida, on Thursday.

And hurricane-force winds were expected across central Florida through early Thursday with widespread, catastrophic flooding likely, the Miami-based hurricane center said.

Firefighters at Naples Fire Rescue Department look out at the firetruck that stands in water from the storm surge from Hurricane Ian. (Naples Fire Department via AP)

No deaths were reported in the United States from Ian by late Wednesday. But a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key West.

The US Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 people and managed to find three survivors about three kilometers south of the Florida Keys, officials said. Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the US Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 20 remaining migrants.

The storm previously tore into Cuba, killing two people and bringing down the country’s electrical grid.

The hurricane’s eye made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers. As it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay.

Curious sightseers walk in the receding waters of Tampa Bay due to the low tide and tremendous winds from Hurricane Ian. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

More than two million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity, according to the PowerOutage.us site. Nearly every home and business in three counties was without power.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, announced a curfew between 9pm and 6am “for life-saving purposes,” saying violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.

“I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell said.

The Weather Underground predicted the storm would pass near Daytona Beach and go into the Atlantic before veering back ashore in South Carolina on Friday.

The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all preemptively declared states of emergency. Forecasters predicted Ian will turn toward those states as a tropical storm, likely dumping more flooding rains into the weekend.

A truck pulls a man on a kayak on a low-lying road after flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, in Key West. (AP Photo/Mary Martin)
Eastbound traffic crowds Interstate 4 as people evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Ian approaches the western side of the state. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Visitors to the Southernmost Point buoy hit by high waves from Hurricane Ian . (Rob O’Neal/The Key West Citizen via AP)
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