People in Florida were evacuating or preparing to ride out increasingly heavy rainfall and forceful winds on Tuesday as Hurricane Ian was forecast to hit the state Wednesday.
As of 5 p.m. local time, life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic winds, and flooding were expected from Ian, a Category 3 hurricane that is expected to get stronger as it nears land. Maximum sustained winds have been recorded at 125 mph. Around Florida, about 2.5 million people are under some kind of evacuation order, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Joel Cline, the tropical program coordinator for the National Weather Service, told BuzzFeed News that storm surges typically produce 8 to 12 feet of water, which is about the height of a one-story house.
"It's not going to be a minor thing in Florida," Cline said. "We don't want to overhype it, but at the same time, it is going to be a very intense system."
He also said that Floridians need to finalize their hurricane plans, whether that's evacuating or sheltering in place, by Tuesday before the hurricane makes landfall Wednesday.
People who plan to stay need to have water and food that can sustain them for two weeks without power, Cline said. And he advised people not to put generators next to open windows because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, something that has killed hurricane survivors in the past.
Samantha Rose, a 21-year-old grocery store employee near Clearwater, told BuzzFeed News that work has been chaotic the past few days as people try to stock up on supplies.
"Saturday was an absolute nightmare," she said. "The parking lot felt almost like it was Thanksgiving. We had every single register open."
Rose said people were buying everything from water to peanut butter to meat to produce, and there have been some tense reactions from customers who couldn't find the items they wanted. On Saturday, the store put a cap on how much bottled water a customer could buy, limiting it to four cases.
"You can tell a lot of people just moved here because they were very much panicking. A lot of times, customers do take it out on the cashier," she said.
Rose and her family live outside of the mandatory evacuation zone and plan to shelter in place. She added she understands that people are afraid.
"A hurricane is no joke," she said.
Hurricane Ian and other kinds of weather disasters are inextricably linked to human-induced climate change. The planet has warmed 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, according to NASA, and it's only making disasters worse. Hurricanes are getting wetter and more dangerous, while heat waves are getting hotter, more frequent, and longer-lasting. Heavier rainfall is triggering more inland flooding, and the only way to stop this cycle is to drastically reduce our reliance on climate-polluting fossil fuels.