By: Bianca Fenstermacher
Sept. 28th, 2022: Hurricane Ian, a powerful category 4 hurricane, is set to strike Florida in the approaching hours.
Having a wind speed of 155 miles per hour, Ian is approaching category 5 status. If Ian achieves the highest category of hurricane, it will be one of only three to reach the mainland U.S. in the past 30 years. With Ian, mass flooding and power outages are expected for many across the “Sunshine State”. Governor Ron DeSantis ordered a mass evacuation for many, but it is too late for the counties that are in the direct path of the storm to leave. Mainland Florida is facing disastrous storm surges. Georgia and South Carolina have been issued storm warnings, as Ian is expected to travel north.
The hurricane is not the only storm event Florida is looking for, as tornado warnings have been issued for some areas. Currently, surges of up to 18 feet tall are expected for the area, a potentially record-breaking surge. No one alive has ever witnessed a storm surge reach such incredible heights. The flash flooding is expected to last for a few days after the hurricane leaves, which could leave many underwaters. The Florida Keys, a string of islands off the coast of Florida, have been affected by the storm already. Many streets are flooded, with conditions worsening throughout the day on Tuesday. An air ambulance that usually takes the sick or injured to Miami has been grounded, and the county officials have opened a shelter for anyone who needs it.
Some restaurants in Key West are still open, providing alcohol and food for stranded tourists. Locals who have seen many tropical storms pass through the area are unfazed by the high winds and rainfall. The residents moved their cars onto an elevated highway in hopes to prevent them from being damaged by the saltwater flooding the hurricane will bring. Tourists stranded in the Keys are enjoying the catastrophic weather, as most have never experienced anything like it.
The Florida Keys are not the only ones affected by the storm. Puerto Rico has been flooded for days, leaving the island underwater and without power. Many homes are now unlivable, with 30 inches of rain reaching some areas. The Puerto Rican National Guard has been rescuing people and distributing food as fast as possible throughout the disaster. Some remote areas have been unreachable for rescuers, leaving the scale of the damages unclear. Fresh water is unavailable for more than 700,000 people, leaving the island in complete shambles.
Cuba is in a similar situation, as the island lacks power. At least two Cubans are dead, but the actual death count is currently unknown. A category 5 hurricane has winds of over 157 miles per hour. Ian’s winds are currently around 155 miles per hour, falling just short of the requirements. It is possible that the hurricane’s speed will increase before landfall. A hurricane is a tropical storm that has winds of over 74 miles per hour.
The differing categories help give an idea of the amount of damage the hurricane is capable of. Usually, only 12 tropical depressions form a year during “Hurricane Season” (June 1st-November 30th), with very few becoming hurricanes. Even fewer ever reach land, with most dissipating over the ocean. The innermost part of a hurricane, referred to as the eye, is the calmest part of the storm. Winds swirl around the eye but never reach the center. The eye of the storm has clear skies mostly free of clouds and rain. The eyewall winds, however, are the strongest winds the hurricane has to offer and circle the eye itself. Many assume that it is safe to go outside once the sky is clear due to thinking the storm is over; however, it is possible that the eye is passing over them before it devastates the rest of the area.
Overall, hurricanes are extremely dangerous events that should not be taken lightly, as they are capable of flooding streets and knocking power and water out for thousands of people.