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Hurricane Ian’s Path of Destruction

October 4, 2022

On Sept. 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa in southwestern Florida as a dangerous, high-end Category 4 storm after plowing a path of destruction through the Caribbean, bringing particularly heavy rainfall and dangerous surf to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and western Cuba. After crossing over the Florida peninsula, where it had weakened to a tropical storm, it strengthened again over the water to a Category 1 hurricane and made a second landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina. 

Tropical Storm Ian first formed in the central Caribbean on Sept. 23 and strengthened into a hurricane on Sept. 26. With maximum winds of 105 mph, it became the strongest September hurricane in this region of the Caribbean (west of 75 degrees west) since Hurricane Felix in 2007. As it transitioned into a hurricane, Ian officially met the National Hurricane Center’s threshold for “rapid intensification”—gaining at least 35 miles per hour in wind speeds within 24 hours or less.

As Ian headed north-northwestward, it continued to quickly intensify over the warm waters and emerged in the southern Gulf of Mexico as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph during the night of Sept 26 into the morning of Sept 27—the strongest September hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Irma in 2017. Ian intensified faster than any other hurricane this Atlantic season.

Ian made landfall that day near La Coloma in the Pinar Del Rio Province in western Cuba, battering the area with high winds, a life-threatening storm surge, and knocking out the island’s power grid. The hurricane then headed toward Florida’s western coast, where residents of coastal communities were ordered to evacuate.

On the morning of Sept. 28, Ian intensified into a Category 4 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just shy of a Category 5 storm. Ian came ashore near Cayo Costa, Florida, at 3:05 p.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, tying the record for the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States. It was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Michael in 2018. It was also the first Category 4 hurricane to impact Southwest Florida since Charley in 2004.

Ian thrashed parts of Florida’s western coast, bringing intense winds, heavy rainfall, and catastrophic storm surges. A storm surge with inundation of an unprecedented 12 to 18 feet above ground level was reported along the southwestern Florida coast, and the city of Fort Myers itself was hit particularly hard with a 7.26 foot surge—a record high

Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sept. 29 as it tracked inland, crossing over the Florida peninsula. However, as it did so, extreme rainfall became particularly destructive, producing 1-in-1000-year amounts in some places. For example, Placida, north of where Ian’s eye made landfall, received more than 15 inches of rain over 12 hours, and Lake Wales, in central Florida, reported nearly 17 inches of rain within 24 hours.   

After Tropical Storm Ian had crossed over Florida and was again over the open water, it strengthened back into a Category 1 hurricane on Sept. 30  before turning and making landfall in South Carolina just after 2:00 p.m. that day. It was the first landfall of a hurricane that the state has seen in nearly six years, and it brought more heavy rain, high winds, and flooding along the coastline. 

Ian began to weaken once over land again, becoming a post-tropical cyclone three hours after landfall. The cyclone later dissipated over southern Virginia late on Oct. 1.  

In all, the storm knocked out power to more than four million customers in Florida, and an additional 1.1 million homes and businesses lost power when the storm plowed through the Carolinas. According to PowerOutage.us, there are more than 100,000 customers who are still without power across Florida. 87 deaths have been reported as residents in Florida and the Carolinas face recovery costs estimated to be around $47 billion in insured losses, according to research firm CoreLogic.