Hurricane Ian

By Mike Johnson

We lived in the Fort Myers, Florida area for 20 years. As I write this morning, they are near the bullseye of Hurricane Ian.

We left the area 26 years ago but we lived on Pine Island during our last ten years there. This 17-mile-long island is in the gulf just west of Cape Coral/Fort Myers and north of Sanibel Island.

Pine Island is right in the epicenter as the hurricane churns toward Charlotte Harbor today.

It’ll first slam Sanibel & Captiva islands, then Pine Island on its way to the mainland at the Charlotte Harbor towns of Boca Grande, Punta Gorda & Port Charlotte.

It will also totally cover the large population centers of Fort Myers & Cape Coral, population 788,000. The electric grid is certain to go down.

Winds in the large eye are 155 mph & will pound this area for 6-8 hours. Rainfall will be over 15 inches. Storm surge is expected to be 12-18 feet AND it arrives at high tide. Pine Island is just nine feet above sea level.

This is the absolute worst case scenario.

18 years ago, Hurricane Charlie took a similar path, devastating the island with its 150 mph winds. But Charlie was much smaller, moving much faster (25 mph) & strengthened late so it only had a 5 foot storm surge.

Ian is 500 miles wide, has a larger eye blowing at 155 mph and is only moving 10 mph. So it carries a far larger storm surge, more rain and much longer and wider destructive time over land.

Evacuation has occurred but there are always a few diehards who ride it out.

Margie was almost one of them. She was visiting a sick aunt in Tampa and her scheduled flight out early yesterday morning was cancelled. Luckily we got her on a flight a few hours later, one of the last to escape before the airport shut down operations.

The storm-hardened folks down there will get through this. They will persevere. Adversity comes & goes.

But God bless. They’re in for a huge calamity. This is going to be a difficult, long-term event for hundreds of thousands of people.

But for the grace of God and some different decisions, we could still be living down there right in the middle of it.


Update: The eye of the hurricane bullseyed right over Pine Island with 155 mph winds. Radar images show the eye first touched -- no lie -- the exact neighborhood where we used to live. Then the hurricane deviated slightly east, pushing most of the 35-mile-wide eye directly over Cape Coral & Fort Myers. We fearfully await daylight to learn what's left.

Update 2: 50-yard section of Sanibel Causeway Bridge collapsed. Entrance road to toll booth at bridge is washed out/destroyed for hundreds of yards. Causeway is washed away/destroyed in five places. No land access to Sanibel/Captiva now for many months. 7,000 people live there.
The only roadway to Pine Island is washed out & destroyed. The Matlacha (Mat-la-shay) bridge connecting Pine Island to the mainland is also damaged, impassible and according to the governor, "must be rebuilt." Reports say the island is totally wrecked from tip to tip. The only access is by boat. 8,400 people live there.

Update 3: Lee County Sheriff that covers Fort Myers, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island & Cape Coral says fatalities are "in the hundreds." Photos & videos of the devastation are now posted everywhere.


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