Hurricane Ian has wreaked havoc in Florida. “The impact of this storm is historic,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Thursday. “And the damage that has occurred is historic.” This is only based on the first estimates, the full size can only be foreseen in the coming days.
“We’ve never seen flooding like this,” DeSantis said. “We’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.” There have been no confirmed deaths so far. Only two deaths are currently known and it is not yet clear if they are directly related to the storm, the Republican said. There will be more clarity as soon as the emergency services can advance to the worst affected areas. Rescue operations are underway, including with helicopters.
Take to the coast at speeds of up to 150 mph
One of the strongest hurricanes in Florida’s history, Ian made landfall and brought violent storms, rain, and storm surges to the state. Reaching speeds of up to 150 mph, the storm hit the west coast of Florida on Wednesday afternoon (local time), just below the threshold for the highest hurricane category, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced. The storm weakened as it moved inland.
Warnings still intact on Thursday
Early Thursday morning, “Ian” reached wind speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour. Meteorologists initially downgraded the hurricane to its lowest strength of one in five. However, the experts continued to warn of catastrophic, even life-threatening, flooding in parts of Florida. Severe storms raged overnight over a strip of land more than 100 kilometers wide. The powerful hurricane had previously made landfall in Cuba.
Inner cities partially flooded
According to the NHC, the center of the storm was about 90 kilometers southeast of Orlando at night. Television footage showed the rain pouring through the streets, only the roofs of cars sticking out of the water and debris flying through the air. Parts of downtown Fort Myers and Naples were under water, US media reported.
Storm surges reached heights of about 3.5 meters, DeSantis said. Authorities expected serious damage to infrastructure and communication lines. Evacuation instructions applied to about 2.5 million people.
States in the North are preparing
Meteorologists say “Ian” will continue to roam Florida for the next several hours. The storm is expected to reach the Atlantic on Thursday before likely moving north. People in the states of Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia were preparing for his arrival.