After Americans enjoyed a summer largely free of major Atlantic tropical system threats, Hurricane Ian made its destructive presence known in the Caribbean and along the Eastern seaboard in late September and early October. With maximum sustained wind speeds approaching 155 mph, Ian devastated the nation and was the second-deadliest storm to hit the continental US in the 21st century, second only to the infamous Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On Friday, September 23, Tropical Storm Ian formed in the central Caribbean Sea, making it the ninth tropical storm of the 2022 Atlantic season. The system quickly strengthened over the warm Caribbean waters, later making its first landfall on September 27 in Cuba as a Category Three hurricane. After leaving the entire island of Cuba without power in its wake, Ian initially made landfall in the United States a day later around Cayo Costa (a barrier island west of Fort Myers, Florida) as a Category Four hurricane. On September 30, Hurricane Ian made its final American landfall in Georgetown, South Carolina, as a Category One storm, later moving north along the East Coast.
Florida’s west coast was most affected by Ian’s path of destruction. By the evening of September 28th, more than 2 million Floridians were already without power, and many towns and cities on the state’s west coast were placed under mandatory curfew orders. Torrential rains, heavy winds, and severe storm surges left many communities submerged in water and infrastructure compromised.
Renee Smith, a resident of Punta Gorda, described the terrifying storm as, “Long lasting, as powerful as the front, you could hear the chimney getting ripped off the roof and coming down right above my head on the roof. I was afraid it was going to come through the roof and crush me.” In the public domain, Ian destroyed roadways and traffic lights, as well as uprooting and knocking down trees on both coasts of Florida.
The widespread devastation in Florida has inspired heroism as well as heartbreak, with citizens stepping up to help their neighbors survive a life-threatening storm. In one case, a group named the “Collier County Cowboys” were captured on video rescuing an older man from a car filled with floodwaters in Bonita Springs. In a similar situation, a Naples firefighter saved a woman from her flooded car after shattering the car window, placing her in a life jacket, and escorting her to safety.
In the aftermath of Ian, over 100 people have been reported dead, with 92 of those deaths coming from Florida, 5 from North Carolina, 1 in Virginia, and 3 in Cuba. The catastrophic nature of the storm inspired President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden to travel to Florida on October 5. After evaluating the damage by helicopter in the Fort Myers area, the Bidens met Floridian Governor Ron DeSantis as well as other local officials and citizens at Fisherman’s Wharf— a marina that thrived prior to Ian’s arrival. Speaking in front of the storm debris, Biden emphasized the need to prepare for future disasters: “The key here is building back better and stronger to withstand the next storm.”
With climate change as an escalating threat in the 21st century, Hurricane Ian will likely not be the last of severe hurricanes to ravage coastal states such as Florida. As Atlantic and Caribbean communities struggle to recover from Hurricane Ian, many affected residents are now looking ahead and wondering what devastation the future may have in store for them.
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Lenthang, Marlene. “Hurricane Ian videos capture heroic rescues and widespread devastation in Florida.” NBC News, 29. Sept. 2022,
Omer, Sevil. “2022 Hurricane Ian: Facts, FAQs, and how to help.” World Vision, 13 Oct. 2022, https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/2022-hurricane-ian-facts-faqs-and-how-to-help. Accessed 23 Oct. 2022.
About the Author:
Karenna Marnik is a junior student. In addition to writing for the Alcott, she is a business manager for her school’s newspaper. She is also passionate about sailing, debate club, and participating in student leadership. Karenna enjoys a lifestyle filled with exercise and the outdoors, particularly hiking and skiing.