Florida and Cuba Hit Hard by Hurricane Ian
On Tuesday, September 27, intensifying rain and wind resulting from Hurricane Ian struck Cuba’s western tip, cutting power to the entire nation and depriving 11 million people of electricity, before heading toward Florida, passing over warm Gulf waters and intensifying into a devastating Category 4 storm.
When the storm hit Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province earlier in the day, authorities there set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, and took precautions to protect crops in the country’s primary tobacco-growing region.
The hurricane, which at the time had top sustained winds of 125 mph, had “significant wind and storm surge impacts” on Cuba, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Over the warm Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Ian became even more powerful, with top winds of 155 mph, 2 mph short of becoming a Category 5 storm. Over 2.5 million people were directed to evacuate as the hurricane approached the southwest coast of Florida.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis advised people to prepare for protracted power outages and to avoid the storm’s potential path.
DeSantis held a press conference in Sarasota, a coastal city of 57,000 people that were suspected to be affected by the storm, “It is a big storm, and it is going to kick up a lot of water as it comes in.” He added, “this kind of storm surge is life-threatening.”
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During the Sarasota press conference, Governor DeSantis informed Floridians that roughly 30,000 workers had been posted across the state to ensure damaged power lines are fixed and running soon. He noted that the effort might take workers days to safely access some of the damaged power lines.
At a news conference on storm preparations in Tampa, Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Timothy Dudley said, “Please treat this storm seriously. It’s the real deal. This is not a drill.”
According to forecasters, if the storm surge peaked at high tide, it could have reached 12 feet in certain areas. Rainfall near the point of landfall could have exceeded 18 inches. Additionally, they reported that the storm’s approach across Florida posed a threat of sporadic tornadoes.
Additionally, President Joe Biden has declared an emergency on this invasive hurricane, empowering the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief efforts. Biden urged citizens to follow the directives of the government. He declared, “your safety is more important than anything.”
Biden and DeSantis discussed federal actions to assist Florida in its hurricane preparation later on Tuesday evening, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and both expressed a commitment to close coordination.
After barreling through Florida, Hurricane Ian continues to move north, bringing devastation to South Carolina and North Carolina.