Hurricane Ian Destruction

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Hurricane Ian battered Florida’s southwestern coastline on Thursday, leaving 2.7 million people without power and flooding homes across the state. Experts classified the tropical storm as one of the strongest to ever hit the United States, and Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis called it “a 500-year flooding event.”

Beyond the official news coverage of the deadly storm, dozens of survivors posted first-hand accounts on social media under the tags #hurricaneian, #hurricane, and #florida.

In one particularly harrowing TikTok video, a woman named Beth films herself floating in her living room in an inflatable pool, surrounded by her water-soaked belongings. A few hours later, she posted a video update in the dark, telling viewers that she was alive but needed help.

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Another popular video taken Wednesday evening showed the Gulf of Mexico after much of the water had seemingly vanished.

@bradkugler Almost 10 hours no water in Gulf of Mexico in norther pinellas county just west of Tampa. #tampa #hurricane #ian #storm #surge ♬ original sound - Brad

“There is no water in the Gulf of Mexico. This is something I’ve never seen. I sure hope it doesn’t come back all at once, but I tell ya, this is bizarre,” a TikTokker named Brad says while pointing at the dry coast. “Millions and millions of gallons have just disappeared.”

The disappearance was likely an example of a negative storm surge or blowout tide, which happens when strong hurricane-strength winds push water away from the coastline. When the winds change direction, the water can rush back in a dangerous storm surge.

Hurricane rescue videos were also trending on social media. In one particularly popular video, firefighters in Naples are seen helping a woman out of chest-deep water in the middle of a flooded road.

@nbcnewyork #HurricaneIan made landfall as a catastrophic category 4 storm Wednesday, as the "extremely dangerous eyewall" moved onshore in Florida, bringing potentially deadly storm surges, devastating winds and widespread flooding in what forecasters described as a life-threatening situation. Ian made landfall in Cayo Costa, Florida at 3:05 p.m, ET, the National Hurricane Center said. Its 150 mph max wind speed is just shy of the category 5 low. #rescue #naples ♬ original sound - NBC New York
@foxweather Good Samaritans rescued an elderly man who was stranded in surging waters in Bonita Springs, #Florida on Sept. 28: “We knew he needed help” #hurricaneian #bonitasprings #hurricane #stormsurge ♬ original sound - FOX Weather

After devastating Cuba with 125-mph winds, Ian strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane, striking Florida’s coastline on Wednesday near Cayo Costa, a barrier island off the coast of Fort Myers.

Although the National Hurricane Center downgraded Ian to a tropical storm on Thursday, the heavy rain and winds still wreaked havoc across the peninsula, leading to at least one confirmed death and thousands of 911 calls. The state is also dealing with hospital evacuations, missing survivors, and electrical and cellular outages.

@aharrisphoto You don’t see this everyday in Orlando. This is the aftermath of Hurricane Ian when conducting a damage assessment. Locations of current flooding in Orlando will be in the comments. Please shelter in place til it is safe. #hurricaneian #hurricaneseason #orlando ♬ original sound - Albert Harris | Photographer

“Portable towers are on the way for cell service. Chances are your loved ones do not have ability to contact you,” Collier County’s sheriff’s office said. “We can tell you as daylight reveals the aftermath, it’s going to be a hard day.”

President Biden officially declared a disaster on Thursday, freeing up federal funds to help the state as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Coast Guard aid with rescue efforts.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Ian is expected to strengthen over the Atlantic before making landfall in South Carolina on Friday. Governors in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm’s arrival, with forecasters predicting more flooding and possible tornadoes.

Readers who want to help hurricane Ian survivors can donate to the State of Florida’s disaster fund or volunteer to help the region recover. Natural disaster victims can apply for help on this federal website, which also has resources to help survivors find shelter. If you need immediate assistance, call FEMA’s helpline at 800-621-3362.

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