Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida –
Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms on record in the United States, flooded southwest Florida on Wednesday, turning streets into rivers, knocking out power to 2 million people and threatening to cause catastrophic damage further inland.
A coastal sheriff’s office reported receiving numerous calls from people trapped in flooded homes. Desperate people posted on Facebook and other social sites, pleading for their rescue or that of their loved ones. Some videos showed debris-covered water lapping towards the eaves of homes.
Storm surge flooded the lower level emergency room of a hospital in Port Charlotte, while high winds ripped off part of its roof on the fourth floor of its intensive care unit, according to a doctor who was there. work.
Water gushed from above onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients – some of whom were on ventilators – to other floors, said Dr Birgit Bodine of the HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try and mop up the soggy mess.
The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients have only been forced to two due to the damage. Bodine planned to spend the night in the hospital in case people injured by the storm arrived there and needed help.
« The ambulances may be coming soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this stage because we are doubled and tripled, » she said. « As long as our patients are doing well and no one ends up dying or having a bad outcome, that’s what matters. »
The center of the hurricane made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just west of heavily populated Fort Myers. As it approached, water flowed out of Tampa Bay.
Mark Pritchett emerged from his home in Venice as the hurricane slammed into the Gulf of Mexico, about 55 kilometers to the south. He called it « terrifying ».
« I literally couldn’t resist the wind, » Pritchett wrote in a text message. “The rain gushes like needles. My street is a river. Limbs and trees down. And the worst is yet to come. »
A boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy waters east of Key West. The US Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission for 23 people and managed to locate three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the island chain, officials said. Four other Cubans traveled to Stock Island, just east of Key West, the US Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for possibly 20 remaining migrants.
The Category 4 storm hit the coast with winds of 150 mph (241 km/h) and pushed up a wall of accumulated storm surge as it slowly marched across the Gulf. More than 2 million homes and businesses in Florida were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. Almost all homes and businesses in three counties were without power.
The storm had already hit Cuba, killing two people and destroying the country’s power grid.
About 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate southwest Florida before Ian struck, but by law no one could be forced to flee.
News anchors at the Fort Myers WINK television station had to abandon their usual desks and continue covering the storm from elsewhere in their newsroom because water was entering their building near the Caloosahatchee River.
Although expected to weaken to a tropical storm as they advance inland at around 14 km/h (9 mph), hurricane-force winds from Ian were likely to feel good in Central Florida. In the hours after landfall, the most sustained winds gradually dropped to 90 mph (150 km/h), making it a Category 1 hurricane crossing the peninsula. Still, storm surges of up to 6 feet (2 meters) were expected across the state in northeast Florida.
Charlotte County Sheriff Bull Prummell, just north of Fort Myers, announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. « for vital purposes », saying violators could face misdemeanor charges. second degree.
« I am enacting this curfew as a way to protect people and property in Charlotte County, » Prummell said.
Jackson Boone left his home near the Gulf Coast and moved into his law firm in Venice with employees and their pets. Boone at one point opened a door to the howling wind and the rain flying aside.
“We are seeing tree damage, horizontal rain, very high winds,” Boone said by phone. « We have an oak tree over 50 years old that toppled over. »
In Naples, the first floor of a fire station was flooded with about 3 feet (1 meter) of water and firefighters worked to retrieve equipment from a fire truck stuck outside the garage in even deeper waters, video released by the Naples Fire Department showed. Naples is in Collier County, where the Sheriff’s Department posted on Facebook that it was receiving « a significant number of calls from people trapped in water in their homes ‘and will put people first’ reporting life-threatening medical emergencies in deep water ».
Ian’s strength on landing tied it for the fifth strongest hurricane, measured by wind speed, to hit the United States. Other storms included Hurricane Charley, which hit nearly the same spot on the Florida coast in August 2004, killing 10 people and inflicting US$14 billion. in damage.
Ian made landfall more than 100 miles south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing the densely populated Tampa Bay area from its first direct hit by a major hurricane since 1921.
Flash flooding was possible throughout Florida. Hazards include the polluted remains of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than a billion tons of mildly radioactive waste contained in huge ponds that could overflow in the event of heavy rains.
The federal government sent 300 ambulances with medical teams and was ready to truck in 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water once the storm passed.
« We’ll be here to help you clean up and rebuild, to help Florida restart, » President Joe Biden said Wednesday. “And we will be there every step of the way. This is my absolute commitment to the people of the State of Florida.
The governors of Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina have all declared states of emergency as a precaution. Forecasters predicted Ian would turn toward those states as a tropical storm, likely dumping more torrential rain over the weekend, after moving through Florida.
Associated Press contributors include Christina Mesquita in Havana, Cuba; Cody Jackson and Adriana Gomez Licon in Tampa, Fla.; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein and Aamer Madhani in Washington; Bobby Caina Calvan in New York; Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, Arizona.