On September 28, Hurricane Ian, the landmark Category 4 storm, wreaked devastation on Florida with winds up to 155 miles per hour.
The storm was responsible for “at least 119 [lives], more deaths than any other hurricane had caused in Florida since 1935,” said Smith et al. of the New York Times.
Furthermore, estimated insured losses of infrastructure “could reach up to $40 billion,” said Mazzei et al. of the New York Times.
Both the devastation caused, and the lives lost make Hurricane Ian one of the most destructive hurricanes in Florida’s history.
The damage in Florida has been felt as far away as Michigan. “I have numerous family members who live in Florida. My family worried that we could not contact them when the storm first hit,” said Haden Gross (’23).
“Luckily, those relatives affected managed to come out unscathed. However, severe damage was done to many of their friends’ homes, and it caused them not to be able to go to work,” said Gross.
Gross, who is also an education major at Alma, was at her placement at a local middle school when she first heard the news.
“I was with my middle school students. They start their day by watching CNN 10. The news seemed to be devastating. It was the first time I had seen thirty middle schoolers quiet,” said Gross.
Hurricanes like these have become more and more frequent– Hurricane Harvey and Irma both striking the U.S. in 2017, Michael in 2018, Laura in 2020 and Ida in 2021–with all being either Category 4 or 5 storms.
The frequency and violence of these storms are not a coincidence. September is usually the peak of hurricane season due to warmer ocean temperatures caused by the phenomenon known as La Niña.
However, “waters off the coast were also two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual for this time of year, according to preliminary data from NASA,” said Shao, Popovich and Rojanasakul of the New York Times.
Higher water temperatures mean more energy for the storms, which means more devastation is caused, and higher water temperatures are not caused overnight.
“More than 90 percent of the excess heat from human- caused global warming over the past 50 years has been absorbed by the oceans, and a majority of it is stored in the top few hundred meters,” said Shao, Popovich and Rojanasakul.
Climate change does not necessarily mean more frequent hurricanes, but rather more powerful ones. And more powerful hurricanes mean more devastation to human civilizations and our way of life.
“Disasters like this should remind politicians and CEOs that the climate crisis rests on their shoulders. We as individuals should do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and hold others accountable,” said Gross.
It is important that lawmakers take climate change into account when rebuilding infrastructure. This can mean implementing better building codes, which will make homes less likely to collapse, as well as the possibility of relocating homes and communities.
Another way to protect shorelines would be to invest in “gray” infrastructure such as “dams, levees, flood gates and sea walls,” said Elena Shao of the New York Times. This would be the first line of defense, along with “green” infrastructure such as “wetlands, oyster reefs and mangrove forests,” said Shao.
Until we adequately reduce global carbon emissions and bring down the temperature of our oceans, it is important to rebuild with climate change in mind. If we do not, we will continue to see increased destruction and loss of life.
Natural disasters are inevitable, but there are things we can and must do to prevent the severity caused by such storms like Hurricane Ian.