Hurricane Ian weakened as it made its way through Florida. With wind speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour, it now has the lowest strength of one in five, said the hurricane center. As a category four hurricane, "Ian" hit the west coast of Florida in the afternoon and brought violent winds, rain and storm surges.
Despite the weakening, a strip of land more than a hundred kilometers wide was exposed to violent storms on its way. According to the experts, the storm was about 110 kilometers south of Orlando during the night. Television pictures showed rain lashing the streets, only the roofs of cars sticking out of the floodwaters and debris flying through the air. "Ian" is likely to make the list of the five deadliest hurricanes in Florida, said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Extent should become clearer with sunrise
Residents were urgently warned not to leave their homes on Thursday morning to assess the damage, for example. Even if the hurricane pulls away, there is still a risk of debris, broken power lines and the like. Evacuation instructions applied to around 2.5 million people in the region. However, some of them chose to remain in their homes.
Around 1.6 million homes were without power, according to the Poweroutage website. The authorities expected serious damage to infrastructure and communication lines. The extent of the destruction is not likely to become clearer until sunrise on Thursday.
Sometimes meter-high floods
The first photos and videos on social media showed severe flooding in the cities of Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral and Naples, some of which were several meters high.
DeSantis said authorities are standing by for salvage and repair work as soon as the weather permits. He wrote on Twitter that around 7,000 National Guard soldiers and 179 planes or helicopters could be deployed. In addition, more than 40,000 mechanics from the utility companies were already on hand to repair power lines. According to the US Hurricane Center, power outages resulting from the "catastrophic damage" of a category hurricane can last four weeks or months, and entire regions could be uninhabitable.
The director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, emphasized that it will probably take 24 hours after arriving on land for the hurricane to pass over Florida. That means 24 hours of heavy rain.
Deanne Criswell of the US Disaster Management Agency FEMA said the region expected to be affected by the storm had not experienced such a hurricane for around 100 years. Experts are also concerned that in the past few decades the region has been built closer and closer to the water.
Guterres: Another example of dramatic climate action
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called "Ian" "another example of dramatic climate action we are seeing around the world with increasing frequency and increasing devastation."
"Ian" made landfall in Cuba on Tuesday as a category three of five hurricane. In the state with a good eleven million inhabitants, the power went out at times across the country. Meanwhile, a boat carrying migrants from Cuba sank off the coast of Florida on Wednesday. The US Coast Guard was looking for 23 people, as announced on Twitter. Four migrants had previously reached American Stock Island off Key West by swimming from the boat in stormy weather conditions.