While the damage was not physically felt here at St. Ambrose, members of the SAU community remain worried about their friends or family members in Florida, their favorite vacation spots, and the devastation of the state in general following Hurricane Ian’s destruction.
Hurricane Ian struck Southwest Florida just after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28. As the destruction continues to unfold, the nation’s eyes have turned toward the Sunshine State. The Category 4 storm caused severe flooding, destroyed homes and buildings beyond repair, and warranted evacuation warnings for 2.5 million residents on the Gulf Coast.
Junior Danny Fieweger expressed concern for his sister who moved to Fort Myers this past June for work, which is on the Gulf Coast. “It’s scary how something like this happened so soon after she moved down there,” says Fieweger. “There was an evacuation warning, but she had already planned to go across the state to St. Augustine because our aunt and uncle live there. They had much less damage from the storm. I saw before and after pictures of Fort Myers. Some buildings seemed to be alright, while others were significantly damaged. The docks were all torn up, and the boats that were at the docks were either trashed or missing.”
Another Junior, Logan Rose, whose hometown is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, compared this hurricane to past ones he has experienced. “Hurricanes are not uncommon in Florida. We take precautions during hurricane season, and that is the severe weather we worry about, compared to snowstorms and hail in the Midwest,” states Rose. “Hurricane Ian was the most destructive one I have seen in Florida. It destroyed many more homes and buildings than normal and will take longer to build back. My parents and I live near Miami, so we didn’t get hit too hard. My grandparents on both sides and some of my aunts and uncles from central Florida were not as lucky. They lost power, fences, had cars get ruined, and their houses got partially flooded.” Logan says his family will have to come together to help his grandparents, aunts, and uncles recover from the storm.
Professor Liz Merdian Lareau spoke about the relatives she has in Florida and shared some knowledge about hurricanes from an environmentalist point of view. “My aunt and uncle live in Leesburg, north of Orlando. They really only had some heavy rain and did not experience damage and flooding like other areas, but they said if the storm had hit further north, closer to Tampa, the winds could have damaged their home.
“My cousin, their son, also lives in Orlando. I know there was some serious flooding there, but I have not heard from him. My family loves to visit Disney, so we were also interested to hear how the parks handled the storm.”
The damage was devastating, and Lareau, who is a professor of public relations and media, continues to follow the unfolding story. “In the ongoing coverage of the storm, hurricane scientists have explained that storms draw power from the slowly warming waters in the Gulf.” Another issue Lareau mentioned is the overdevelopment of the Florida coastline. “The houses and man-made canals that replaced protective shorelines, marshes, and mangrove forests have left coastal cities more vulnerable to flooding and erosion than they would be naturally. Florida is really looking at how to build back sustainably in order to prevent this level of destruction in the future.”
Brooklyn Pottebaum, a Junior at SAU, has a great aunt in Fort Myers, an area that was hit very hard by Ian. “My aunt has lived in Florida for about 50 years so she has dealt with hurricanes before,” says Brooklyn. “She decided to stay instead of evacuating. Our family was worried about her, but she is pretty stubborn. I heard the storm lasted for over 12 hours in her area. She did not give us too many details about the damage, but we know she is okay. I hope things are not too destroyed because I like to go visit her at least once a year. It is a very populated area, so I hope anyone else who stayed is alright too.” Catastrophic natural events are scary, but it can be an opportunity to bring people closer together. Even at St. Ambrose, far from any ocean, so many people have some connection to Florida. Whether it is family, friends, or a favorite vacation spot, we can converse and relate to each other about how we are all feeling as a result of Hurricane Ian.
According to flgov.com, the coast guard, along with eight USAR teams, are performing search and rescue along the Gulf Coast for anyone trapped by the storm. There are also about 42,000 linemen responding to the more than 2 million power outages that have been reported so far. This is the beginning of a long rebuild from a storm that will not soon be forgotten.
David Girgenti is a staff writer for The Buzz.