Hurricane Ian strikes coast of Florida, wrecking homes and ravaging communities


Provided by

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Tasks forces deploy a search and rescue team in Palm Island. Currently, FEMA has provided more than $420 million to assist survivors.


Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, hit Florida on Sept. 28 and destroyed parts of its western coast, causing damages costing up to $67 billion in repairs.

First spotted when and has since moved and expanded, Hurricane Ian became the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Michael in 2018, generating over 10 inches of rainfall and extreme winds. Currently, at least 119 people in Florida have died due to Hurricane Ian, and more than 6,800 residents are staying in emergency shelters

Across Florida, the hurricane has had different impacts on people in various areas. Sophie Grace (10), who has friends living in the state, talked about their current situation.

“[One of my family-friends] was planning on building a second house, near the shore,” Sophie Grace said. “When the hurricane hit, the entire house got gutted, but thankfully the structure was still intact. Some houses were destroyed in that area, but luckily no house was completely gone.” 

In other areas, damages were more extreme, with the high surges near the Fort Myers Beach area leaving buildings partially submerged underwater and houses completely decimated. People across the coast are suffering major wreckage, with nearly 850,000 residents without power since five days after the storm started. 

According to a 2020 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) study, as of 2017, 38% of the tropical cyclone activity on the planet was classified as  “major intensity,” defined as a Category 3 storm, with wind speeds between 111 and 129 mph, Category 4 storm, with wind speeds ranging from 130 to 156 mph, or a Category 5 storm, where wind speeds are 157 mph or above. Hurricanes in the North Atlantic reached a similar rate of 42%. The increase in hurricanes, according to upper school biology teacher Jeff Sutton, can largely be attributed to global warming. 

At first the news made it seem like [Florida’s government] is handling the situation well, but then after you realize there’s still a lot of people who don’t have any homes right now, it’s really a bad situation for them to be in.

— Sophie Grace (10), with friends living in Florida

“Hurricanes are first determined by the sun, which drives a lot of weather,” Sutton said. “Second, the Earth’s rotation causes the Coriolis Effect. [This] makes the airflow and heating and cooling of the Earth’s surface to cause winds and the movement of air and wind, creating a hurricane. As they pick up temperature as they move through the tropics, they warm up, and the warm water helps them. Warm air and water means more energy, which means more intense storms.”

As global warming worsens, oceans will continue to absorb 90% of heat waves produced by rising greenhouse gas emissions. This effect increases the ocean’s average temperature, making hurricanes more likely to occur. 

While hurricanes such as Ian leave behind detrimental effects, Sutton explains that they can be beneficial to the environment as well, specifically through the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis explains that at levels of moderate disturbance in environments, higher diversity will occur.

“Diversity is a good thing,” Sutton said. “If you think of it in a way, some sort of stress on the ecosystem is good; not too much or too little, but just that ‘Goldilocks happy medium’ amount.  And that tends to make more niches — more niches means more habitat diversity, more habitat diversity tends to mean more species diversity, [creating] different plants, fungus, bacteria and animals.”

Florida previously experienced major housing deficits, with a shortage of 500,000 homes in the state that are affordable for low and middle-income families, and Hurricane Ian has only worsened the situation, leaving many more without a home. 

As welfare checks and rescue missions continue in Florida and South Carolina, the number of missing individuals is decreasing. Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis announced on Monday that over $45 million has been raised from 62,000 different donors for Hurricane Ian relief, and as of now, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided more than $420 million to assist survivors. Additionally, fire departments all over California have sent crews to Florida to support search and rescue, and California Governor Gavin Newsom has also chipped in by deploying a team of mass care experts to help facilitate shelters. However, even with these efforts, many people still remain largely homeless.

US Army Corps of Engineers install roof coverings to help out Hurricane Ian survivors. The installation process is part of the Operation Blue Roof program, which seeks to provide homeowners in disaster areas with coverings until their roofs can be repaired. (Provided by

“At first the news made it seem like [Florida’s government] is handling the situation well, but then after you realize there’s still a lot of people who don’t have any homes right now, it’s really a bad situation for them to be in,” Sophie Grace said. “It’s got to suck for everyone who doesn’t have a home, and the government isn’t able to provide them with one.”