Massive flooding in Fort Myers, Florida caused by category four Hurricane Ian which slammed into the State on Wednesday. –
AS category four Hurricane Ian plummets through Florida in the US, causing major flooding, damage to homes, power outages and mass evacuations, TT nationals there have prepared for the worst.
The hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida around 3.05 pm on Wednesday.
In a public advisory on Wednesday at 5pm, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the hurricane was “battering the Florida peninsula with catastrophic storm surge winds and flooding.”
Earlier in the day, winds went up to 155 miles per hour (mph) but the 5pm update said it had decreased to 140 mph.
It said, “The eye of Hurricane Ian was located near latitude 26.9 north, longitude 82.0 west.
“Ian is moving toward the north-north-east near eight mph.”
It said the hurricane will move across central Florida overnight into Thursday morning and “emerge over the western Atlantic by late Thursday.
“Ian is forecast to turn northward on Friday and approach the north-eastern Florida coast, Georgia and South Carolina coasts late Friday.”
The US National Weather Service listed Tampa as having the potential for winds greater than 110 mph, Miami with potential for winds between 39 and 57 mph, Orlando from 74-110 mph and Jacksonville – 58-73 mph.
US President Joe Biden outlined what the US government would be doing to assist the public during these times.
On the White House’s website, it said Biden spoke to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, adding that he approved an emergency declaration for Florida.
“The administration pre-staged 110,000 gallons of fuel and 18,000 pounds of propane for immediate deployment and personnel and equipment to support distribution; moved in a variety of generators of all sizes and types and pre-positioned assessment and installation teams to provide temporary emergency power to critical infrastructure, is staging 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million litres of water in Alabama, (and) has 300 ambulances already in the state working side by side with local officials.
It said there are over 1,300 federal response workers to support “emergency preparations including operations, planning, power restoration, debris removal, and urban search and rescue.”
And at a press conference on Wednesday, DeSantis urged people to stay inside and the storm is “very dangerous.
“If you’re in those southwest Florida counties, you need to be sheltering in place…central and north-east Florida will also feel impacts.”
Over 2 million people were under evacuation orders but DeSantis said there were many people who opted to remain in their homes.
“At the end of the day, that’s a decision they made knowing that they had to ability to evacuate and knowing what the stakes were.”
He said Ian will be “one of the storms people will always remember when they think about southwest Florida. It will probably be the big one they always remember.
“Every time you look at this storm, it’s just been bad news. It gets stronger, it gets larger and we really appreciate people’s concerns for Florida.”
In a later press conference around 5pm, DeSantis said he had received reports of structural damage.
“It is our meteorologists’ views that the storm surge has likely peaked and will likely be less in the coming hours.”
But he added, “There’s going to be damage across the whole state.”
He said there had been over 1.1 million reported power outages and warned Floridians that this number will increase.
As of 6pm, there were no reported casualties and over 200 shelters were active.
TRINIS BATTEN DOWN
TT national Tisha Henry-Chow is in Cape Coral – which is in southwest Florida – and told Newsday she hasn’t experienced weather conditions this threatening since 2004. But while she is nervous, she said her family is well-prepared.
TT national Tisha Henry-Chow. –
“It hit Tampa first and over the weekend, they told us we wouldn’t know until Wednesday what would really be the situation. So, in case of anything, what we did was we got cases of water, we got sandbags…but our backyard is the canal, so our main thing is monitoring that because once it passes eight feet, our house will definitely get flooded out.”
When they tried to evacuate, she said, major roads were already impassable.
“I’m just trying to be as cool as possible because my mom and my stepdad have some age and I don’t want to pass that stress on to them. But I’m a little nervous because you don’t really know what to expect.
“Seeing it on TV and hearing stories is something completely different from being there and experiencing it.”
She said the strength of the winds has been very scary, but they have a safe room with basic necessities should anything happen.
A TT national who preferred not to be named told Newsday she is currently stuck in Orlando – central Florida.
“I was really here in transit because I had meetings in Washington and then I stopped in Orlando to spend some time with my (family). My son went on to Trinidad and I was supposed to go on to Jamaica and I got stranded here.”
She said the wind “started to pick up” on Wednesday morning, adding that most grocery shelves were empty.
“It was difficult to find (drinking) water, for example. Since Monday evening, shelves were cleared of things like water, candles and tin foods. I couldn’t even get a case of water.”
She said she’s worried since some parts of central Florida are under tornado watch.
“Trees could fall, electricity poles could fall – those are the things I am worried about.”
But she said the community spirit she’s experiencing is one positive thing.
“Everybody was just checking in on each other, which is really commendable.
“I also have to commend the way in which they are organised over here. It’s such a far cry from what we face at home because everything just went into action.”
LIMING AND COOKING
Marisa Persad-Dibble who lives near Fort Lauderdale in south-east Florida said the weather is continually moving from calm to gusty winds.
She said the mood of the community in which she lives is currently “very Trini” as people are liming, cooking, etc.
“And because the storm is not hitting us directly – it’s two hours away – people still riding around in the road and whatever.”
TT national Marisa Persad-Dibble. –
She said many people emptied the shelves of groceries in panic.
“My mom went to get gas and she couldn’t find. She stayed in line for hours, and we just happened to go to the right place in the right time and we got.
“And then the price of things – someone I know said she paid US$6 for water last week and this week it’s US$26. That’s ridiculous.”
Juliana Findley who also lives in the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale said the sky is gloomy and it’s very windy, but that it had not rained since around 5am.
“It’s stressful because even the little time you spend preparing and all that…for instance, I work in the office and I went out on Monday and they had a meeting, let us know they were closing the office on Wednesday and that Tuesday we’d be going home early.
“It’s the first time I was low on (drinking) water. You try to order and there’s no water. Even food, a lot of the shelves were empty.”
She said she has flashlights, batteries, and other essential items.
Natasha Villanueva lives in Sanford, which is in central Florida, and on Wednesday afternoon she said the rain was worsening and it was getting more windy.
Her family placed several sandbags around the house.
Trini national Natasha Villanueva. –
“We were told it’s going to hit us really hard between 6pm and 8pm in our area and we were also told we should expect power outages.
“We still have power right now but areas further out from me have experienced outages already, but it’s (the rain) is really coming down now.”
“We (my family) also experienced Hurricane Irma (in 2017) but they’re giving us the inclination that this seems to be worse than what we experienced then.”
She said there’s a pond near her house and the wind is causing the trees to sway, which she is worried about.
She also said she went to several major stores which sell essential items and the shelves were empty there too.
TT CONSULATE TELLS TRINIS TO REACH OUT
THE TT Consulate General’s office in Miami closed on Wednesday and is set to reopen on Friday owing to the hurricane.
On the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs’ website, it said, “The consulate will make itself available to national scholars in case of emergency via telephone numbers 786-492-2095 or 786-566-1709.
“Kindly follow all official news channels and heed all emergency warnings and evacuation orders. Please take all appropriate measures to preserve life and secure property.”
Newsday tried to contact consul general Joanne Brooks and Minister of Foreign and Caricom affairs Dr Amery Browne but calls and messages went unanswered.