Florida population

Sanibel’s Lost Causeway and Tampa Bay ‘reversed’: Why Ian will rank among the worst hurricanes in Florida history

By Rachel Koning Beals

Ian’s reach, unusual strengthening near land, as well as coastal damage from the reverse storm surge, are all important lessons for a future shaped by climate change.

Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, hitting the popular tourist islands of Sanibel and Captiva – in effect, crumbling the only causeway that allows vehicles to access these destination barrier islands – then making landfall between the population centers of Tampa and ft. Myers.

Ian knocked out power for some 2 million customers and racked up very early estimates for $16 billion in damage in the Tampa area. And even after being downgraded to a tropical storm, it continued to inundate the state on its way to the Atlantic coast. Close. Joe Biden promised a visit and said the storm could be “the deadliest hurricane in Florida history” based on early reports of “what could be significant loss of life.”

Hurricanes are typical at this time of year, but Ian has generated enough fear and shown enough behavioral changes that climate change and planning experts are recording this storm’s unique characteristics as future warnings in the Sunshine. State, as well as other desirable coastal, warm-weather and work-from-home and retirement recreation centers in the United States

Related: Will Hurricane Ian cause Floridians to leave the Sunshine State?

Ian, which hit late in the typical June-November hurricane season, will be one of the strongest storms in US history, testing the upper limits of its Category 4 “catastrophic” status with sustained winds of 150 mph. Ian is tied with Charley in 2004 and a 1919 Keys hurricane as the fourth-strongest direct strike ever in Florida, according to Colorado State University meteorologist and hurricane expert Philip Klotzbach. The only hurricanes that passed Ian were: Michael in 2018, Andrew in 1992, and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Hurricane Camille, which hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969, was another storm deadly of great intensity.

Read:Hurricane Ian topped a Category 4 catastrophic rating. Here are the categories explained

And: Late-strike Ian keeps costly, high-risk hurricane season on track, fueled by climate change

What are the biggest takeaways?

Ian was a different storm in several ways that caught the attention of scientists. For one thing, Ian was much bigger, in terms of miles traveled when it hit, than another notable storm: Charley in 2004. As Weather Channel hurricane expert Rick Knabb, the full extent of Hurricane Charley’s “wind field” could fit within Ian’s 35-mile wide eye.

Also, it was rare for the storms to continue to strengthen until they made landfall. But this hasn’t been the case for a few years now, and some studies show that this is an alarming sign of climate change. Warming ocean temperatures and abundant atmospheric moisture – two factors that climate change is reinforcing – continue to fuel powerful hurricanes to the point that typical jet streams cannot reduce the speed and severity of storms near land. .

Don’t Miss: Hurricane Ian: 5 Reasons Retirement Favorites Tampa and the Gulf Coast Are More Prone to Hurricanes and the Impact of Climate Change

The good news is that Tampa Bay appears to have been spared the worst of the storm as it passed through central Florida, thanks to an eastward shift this week that brought its landfall on the Gulf Coast to two hours south. The eyewall hit the barrier island of Cayo Costa near Sanibel and Captiva around 3:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Read: When Waffle House closed 21 stores in Florida for Hurricane Ian, residents knew it was ‘time to panic’

The Chamber of Commerce website for hotspots receives an impressive 1.5 million unique visitors per year. And Sanibel and Captiva have over 160,000 actual visitors each year. And officials are only just beginning to get an idea of ​​the structural damage left by Ian’s powerful winds and 12-foot storm surge around Fort Myers, the gateway to these islands, which served as a zero from the storm, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I think eventually we’re going to see it could be a Category 5,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said. “But at a minimum, it will be a strong Category 4 that ranks among the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula.”

What is a “reverse” storm surge?

Hurricanes often cause storm surges or dangerously high waves that can crush boats, homes and people. But Ian actually pushed the water out of Tampa Bay, leaving it less than a foot deep in some areas.

The outflow is sometimes called a reverse or negative storm surge. As Ian passed south of Tampa Bay, winds to the north of the storm blew in from the east, pushing water away from the shore.

The phenomenon, which usually only lasts a few hours and was a repeat of what happened during Hurricane Irma in 2017, can also reverse suddenly with damaging results. Residents are still advised to avoid the lure of walking in the newly revealed shallow waters.

The video and still images show the bottom of the bay, visible to all.

In addition to immediate damage, there can be lasting damage after a storm of this size has passed. In confined ports, the combination of storm tides, waves and currents can also seriously damage marinas and boats. In estuaries and bayous, saltwater intrusion endangers public health, kills vegetation, and can send animals, such as snakes and alligators, fleeing flooded areas, NOAA says.

No more “abnormal” storms

Modern life means both more effective warning to people of approaching severe weather, allowing protection of property and escape to safety – but also ever-increasing development along coastlines vulnerable and in population groups puts more lives and structures on the path to destruction. Additionally, the reach of hurricanes can extend beyond states and cities that are typical targets. Increasingly, named storms are breaking into routine hurricane states with flooding and more damage further inland.

The real estate and insurance sectors, and in particular their clients, are faced with the need for increased awareness and additional budgeting around climate change.

Read: A climate-proof retirement? Ask the tough questions about real estate and property insurance

“Multi-peril” events are also on the rise. For example, Hurricane Ida, which cost over $75 billion in economic losses, hit several US states in late summer 2021. Ida was not limited to its coastal impact along the Gulf from Mexico. Its mighty remnants battered the populated northeast, causing costly inland flooding as well as tornadoes as far away as Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Related: The 10 most expensive weather disasters of 2021 cost $170 billion – and this US storm was #1

This is the case with the last, still powerful remnants of Ian. In Charleston, South Carolina on Thursday, authorities opened parking garages so residents could put their cars above impending flooding.

Forecasters had predicted the seventh highest Friday afternoon water level in more than 120 years of records, at 8.7 feet (2.7 meters) above mean low tide at the downtown harbor .

And, as expected, Ian once again achieved hurricane status for its path through the Carolinas.

The Associated Press contributed.

-Rachel Koning Beals


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

09-30-22 1656ET

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