Hurricane Ian devastated everything it found in its path through Florida: houses, roads, marinas, electrical infrastructure and even bridges that connected some islands to the mainland.
The west coast of this state, normally peaceful and known for its paradisiacal beaches, was blurred by the destruction caused by the storm surge of several meters high and hurricane-force winds.
In central Florida, rivers and canals overflowed by the intense precipitations that the cyclone brought with it. In two days it rained the same as it usually rains in that area in 6 months.
While some deaths were reported, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that we will have to wait to know the real number of deceased left by the hurricane, one of the most powerful to make landfall in the US since records began.
Ian made landfall on Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. local time (7:05 p.m. GMT) in Cayo Costa, a town on the west coast of the southern United States state, next to Sanibel Island and near cities such as Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tampa.
It did so with winds of 240 km/h, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane (out of a maximum of 5) on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
It then moved northeast, across the state and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
The power grid has been hit hard, with more than 2.6 million homes without power.
Governor DeSantis assured this Thursday that, based only on preliminary evaluations, the damage caused by the hurricane “was historic”.
“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” DeSantis said.
That is why in some areas will have to buildfrom scratch because “they cannot be rebuilt”, he assured.
“Reconstruction will not happen overnight, but help is on the way,” he said, referring to help from other states and federal funds to carry out the necessary work, although at this time the priority is rescuing possible survivors.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, assured this Thursday that it may be the “deadliest cyclone in the history of Florida” and declared what happened a “major disaster”, a measure that frees money from Washington for reconstruction.
Like it’s 1950
Some 30,000 members of the emergency services were working this Thursday to respond to those affected and will continue their work 24 hours a day, helped by dozens of helicopters that are carrying out rescues in areas that are not accessible by road.
On the coast, hundreds of houses were completely destroyed and numerous boats were seen that were stacked against each other after being dragged by the wind and the swell.
“If you saw a photo of Fort Myers Beach this year and then one from the 1950s, it would be very similar to what you see (now),” Dan Allers, a member of the Fort Myers City Council, told the BBC.
At that time, the resort was not as developed and the coast was water and sand.
$100 billion in damage
Erik Salna, associate director of the International Hurricane Research Center, told the BBC that damage from Hurricane Ian will likely leave parts of the state “unrecognizable“.
“From what we’re seeing now, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Beach and Naples are going to look dramatically different when this is finally over,” Salna said.
“We just hope that the people who were asked to evacuate did so.”
Ian continued to inundate communities with heavy rain Thursday as it moved from east to west over the Florida panhandle.
“I spent a lot of time studying hurricane damage and I think there will be $100 billion in damage and several hundred deaths,” said Hugh Willoughby, a professor of meteorology at Florida International University. “I hope to be wrong”.
Basic reconstruction efforts will last at least until the new year, Willoughby said, although the area’s full recovery will take “several years.”
Hurricane Ian has already entered the history books, although for millions of people in Florida it remains part of a dark present.