The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in southwest Florida last September and eventually caused over $112 billion in damage and more than 150 deaths directly or indirectly, briefly reached maximum Category 5 status before waning to a Category 4 storm.
According to the study, which NOAA issues for all significant tropical storms, Ian was the most expensive hurricane in Florida history and the third-most expensive hurricane overall in the United States.
Before it collapsed on October 1, Ian affected Cuba, Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida.
According to the NOAA report, Ian became one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded on September 28 after passing through the Dry Tortugas islands as a Category 5 storm with gusts estimated at 161 mph (259 kph).
The storm is now on the list of deadly monsters like Camille, Hugo, Andrew, Katrina, Wilma, and Michael, even though it later fell to a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Florida later that day with winds of 150 mph (241 kph).
Along with solid gusts, Ian also caused a significant storm surge along Florida’s southwest Gulf coast. For instance, the storm surge at Fort Myers Beach, which was severely impacted, peaked between 10 and 15 feet (3 and 4 meters) above the ground.
The tide was as high as 13 feet (3.9 meters) close by Sanibel.
According to the NOAA assessment, “Ian made landfall in a location especially vulnerable to storm surge.” “The catastrophic storm surge and wind left a vast swath of total damage across southwest Florida.”
With 41 fatalities, storm surge drowning was the primary cause of death during the storm; 12 more died due to inland flooding in central and eastern Florida. According to NOAA, 66 deaths in Florida were directly related to the battery.
The 156 fatalities in the United States include direct deaths from heart attacks, being electrocuted by electrical lines, being unable to get medical treatment, and car accidents. Eighty-four of them were located in Florida.
The victims’ ages ranged from 6 to 101, although the median age of storm-related deaths was 72, according to NOAA.
The analysis notes that while this may reflect the demographics in southwest Florida’s counties, it is consistent with prior hurricane landfalls in which the elderly die at the highest rates.
From September 28 to October 1, more than 4.4 million customers, or around 9 million people, lost power in the United States due to Hurricane Ian, according to NOAA.
More than 3 million people in Florida and thousands more in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia were the states with the most power disruptions.
Of the projected $112 billion in hurricane damages, more than $109 billion occurred in Florida. Over 52,000 structures, including 5,369 entirely demolished, were affected in Lee County alone.
Hundreds of buildings in numerous central Florida counties were damaged or destroyed by inland flooding caused by swelling rivers, some at record levels.
During Hurricane Ian, almost 27 inches (68 cm) of rain fell in Grove City, Florida, which made landfall near Cayo Costa. Florida had widespread rainfall between 10 and 20 inches (25 and 50 centimeters).
Regarding the predictions for Hurricane Ian, NOAA reports that the track errors were more minor than those over the preceding 5-year period while still admitting that pinpointing the precise site of projected landfall can be challenging.
Following the hurricane, concerns have been expressed about whether the warnings were adequate to provide people, particularly the elderly, enough time to flee.
According to the NOAA report, storms that track a coastline “tend to be more difficult to predict because a slight change in the heading can produce huge alterations in the site of the landfall.” “Ian was an illustration of this specific issue.”
It was challenging to anticipate the rapid intensification as well. According to NOAA, the forecast errors in this region were more significant than they had been over the previous five years. At Fort Myers Beach, storm surge warnings were issued 48 hours before the arrival of a tropical storm, and a day before Ian made landfall, the peak surge was forecast to reach 12 feet (4 meters).
According to NOAA, the National Hurricane Center website was accessed roughly 224 million times during the hurricane period, which also reported that its forecasters gave 282 media interviews during the last week of September.