The 2022 hurricane season started with a historic lull. A tropical storm formed five days into the season, but nothing until September 1.
There were 14 named storms, of which eight became hurricanes. Two intensified into major hurricanes, including Ian, with winds reaching 155 miles per hour sustained and a massive storm surge.
Ian’s track was teetering on the edge as Southwest Florida watched, prepared, and hoped for Ian to stay away. As the hours ticked by, it became clearer that the hurricane growing in the gulf would swirl east, strengthening as it slowed.
When Ian rolled in, making landfall on Cayo Costa on September 28, it delivered a deadly, drenching, devastating punch to Southwest Florida.
The community watched as the water rose.
“We swam to Walmart because the water came up in like five minutes. It filled my house, and I didn’t want to drown,” said Beth Ross.
The streets disappeared. The sheer power of the surging water tossed yachts like toys. The images of the aftermath were unimaginable.
Survivors shared incredible stories of resilience and bravery, including Johnny Lauders, who swam half a mile to rescue his mom from her Naples home.
“Halfway in the journey, I was looking up because the telephone lines were all arcing, and it was sparking. And if they started feeling a buzz, then, of course, go around but wasn’t gonna stop me. And as I took one picture, and literally a minute later, I’m not even joking. I looked up at the poles, I thought, okay, I’m fine. And when I looked down, there’s this kneeboard in front of me as if somebody put it there. As I approached my mom’s unit, I hear screaming, which was an overwhelming feeling of fear and joy at the same time one, not knowing that she was trapped or hurt under something. And two, I was happy because I knew there was air still in her lungs. So it turns out that she was on the phone with my son and yelling at me through the window that she can’t get to the door. She doesn’t have teeth but believe me, she was smiling. The water was up to her chin. I mean, aside from if I would have been 20 minutes later, she wouldn’t be here,” said Lauders.
Kevin Ott braved the storm on what began as a mission to rescue his kids’ grandmother. In all, he saved 12 people.
The category four hurricane is the deadliest storm in the state’s modern history, leaving our shoreline in shambles.
On the east coast, Nicole, a category one storm, came ashore near Vero Beach. It was the first hurricane to make a November landfall in Florida since 1985.
It sucked the coastline into the Atlantic and took homes and buildings right along with it.
“The water was coming right up to the windows, and it was – it sounded just like a freight train just going by, and it never stopped. It never ended,” said Pat Keefer.
The resiliency to build back better than ever is unmatched from coast to coast.
From July 3 to August 31, the Atlantic did not produce a single named storm. The last time that happened was when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.