Hurricane Ian is heading straight for the coast of Florida.
By Monday night, it is expected to be a Category 3 storm with winds of up to 129 miles per hour.
Evacuations have already started.
But Ian isn’t just a threat because of the wind and rain.
Florida’s population has been growing over the past few years, and some of the biggest increases have been in cities like Tampa and Miami, which are close to the coast and vulnerable to storms.
Hurricane forecasters are getting better, but as these storms get stronger and more people to move to places where they are more likely to happen, they are upending more people and destroying more property.
What’s A Storm Surge?
Storm surge is when the winds of a hurricane raise the water level and push it inland, causing flooding.
This is the most dangerous part of a hurricane most of the time.
When combined with up to 10 inches of rain, Ian’s floodwaters could last for days.
Climate change is making these effects are getting worse.
Rising average temperatures are causing sea levels to rise and major storms to drop more rain, which makes storm surges even more dangerous.
Extreme weather events are becoming more destructive, and climate change is worsening many of them.
This contributes to a rise in disasters that cause more than $1 billion in damage.
When Will Ian Impact Florida?
At least tropical-storm-force winds are expected to hit more than 15 million people in the US in cities like Tampa, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville.
The latest advisory says that storm surge warnings have been added for parts of western Florida, where surges of 5 to 10 feet are possible.
Warnings for “life-threatening flooding” go from Anclote River in the north to Flamingo in the south, including Tampa Bay.
The latest report from the hurricane center says that the hurricane watch from Englewood to the Anclote River, which includes Tampa Bay, has been changed to a hurricane warning.
According to the center, “hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area, in this case within 24 to 36 hours.”
In a statement on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that winds strong enough to be called a tropical storm could start in the Florida Keys and south Florida as early as Monday night.
“Storm surge could affect most of Florida’s west coast, with the highest risk between Ft. Myers and Tampa Bay,” the statement said.
The storm is expected to hit the west coast of Florida or the Florida Panhandle around noon on Thursday.
However, the storm’s path and strength can still change. Increased wind shear could help weaken Ian before it hits land, but it is still too early to say how much.
Tampa Bay May Get The Storm Of A Lifetime
Although projection models indicate a wide variety of potential routes, one concern is obvious: the Tampa region on the western coast of Florida may experience its first direct hurricane impact since 1921.
And it might be disastrous.
“The last major hurricane that actually made a direct hit was 100 years ago,” said meteorologist Rick Davis of the National Weather Service’s Tampa office.
“So there’s a lot of people that have been brushed by hurricanes in the last five or 10 years in Florida.”
He added: “We tell people, even if they’re lifelong Floridians like myself, this is something that we haven’t seen in our lifetime… So we definitely need to take it seriously.”
But flooding can do a lot of damage to the area even without a direct hit.
Storm surges are very dangerous in Tampa Bay because the water that comes in has nowhere to go.
The way Hurricane Ian is expected to move right now puts all of the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Bradenton, and others, on the storm’s right side.
This means that winds will push water north into the bay, worsening storm surge floods. Up to a 10-foot storm surge is expected in this area right now.
On Thursday, the storm’s core tracks within 10 miles of the St. Petersburg coastline in Pinellas County, close to Clearwater, while also slowing the storm to a walking speed between 3 and 4 mph.
Officials in Pinellas County say that the combination of huge storm surges and a slow-moving hurricane could be very bad.
“It could sit on us for 47 hours,” said Cathie Perkins, who is in charge of emergency management in Pinellas County. Perkins said that the government expects 10 to 15 inches of rain.
Monday, Jamie Rhome, the National Hurricane Center acting director, told CNN that Ian would be the storm of a lifetime for many people in Tampa Bay.
The Lasting Impact Of A Hurricane
Cities like Tampa will have to deal with storms that are even worse in the future.
Potential impacts in the future could include a category 5 hurricane with 160 mph sustained winds and a 26-foot storm surge that could directly hit the gulf coast and central Florida.
The damage from a storm due to strong winds and heavy rain doesn’t stop when the floodwaters go down, though. Many awful things can keep happening.
People who don’t have insurance or enough money to rebuild may have to move away for good or face long-term financial problems.
Recovery works best for people who already have resources. After a disaster, there is often a rise in inequality.
Puerto Rico is a good example of this. Since Hurricane Fiona hit the island last week, more than 600,000 customers are still without power as of Monday afternoon.
Without power, it’s hard for many people to get clean water to drink and run important medical devices, and bottled water is even harder to come by.
So the full damage from a storm depends not only on wind and water but also on how well people prepare and how quickly they can get back on their feet.
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys
Hurricanes can cause serious property damage to homes and businesses. Our attorneys can help file a hurricane damage claim. For more information, call our attorneys today for a free consultation at 833-692-5038.