As one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in years, Hurricane Ian has devastated large parts of Florida. Although it was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday morning, as Ian moved back out to sea it regained strength and hit hurricane force once again. Now, it’s heading towards South Carolina and Georgia. NASA released images of Ian as it made landfall near Cayo Costa, Fla., and they show just how enormous the storm is.
Some 80,000 properties have been affected by flood waters and powerful winds. At least 20 people are dead, and authorities fear that number will rise as rescue efforts continue.
Among the landmarks damaged by Hurricane Ian is Flagler Pier in Flagler Beach, Fla. Video from late Thursday showed large parts of the pier breaking off and floating away, and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly told media outlets Thursday that he doesn’t think it will survive this storm.
More than 200,000 people have been displaced by Hurricane Ian. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called it a 500-year flood event, saying “We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude.”
Storm surges occur when high winds push large amounts of water towards land. When the water meets the shore, it pushes inland, and when the coastline is wide and shallow — like Florida’s is — the surges can be much higher.
According to Dan Allers, a councillor in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., the storm surge was 12-14 feet. “To say it’s devastation would be a severe understatement; just watching people’s belongings and homes and things float by – it was a very tough scene to witness,” he told the BBC.
Due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream current, Florida has endured the brunt of many powerful hurricanes over the years. “Hurricanes derive their energy from warm ocean water and the Gulf Stream is sort of the warmest ocean water around,” Hugh Willoughby, a meteorology professor at Florida International University told the BBC.
Authorities worry that Hurricane Ian will be Florida’s biggest natural disaster on record. Rescue efforts are currently underway, and rebuilding will be a years-long effort. We’ve reached out to a handful of locals in the area, but have yet to hear back.