Hurricane Ian Florida: A Post Cyclone Analysis of Fort Myers, Sarasota, and Naples
BY: TYLER SPALDING WEATHER CONSULTANT FOR NOBLE PUBLIC ADJUSTING GROUP
On September 28th, 2022, the Southwest coast of Florida was impacted, the brunt of which directly striking the Fort Myers FL region, by Category 4 Hurricane lan. It was the first Major Hurricane to impact Florida since 2018’s Hurricane Michael, and the first Major Hurricane to impact the region since Irma. From a strictly observational standpoint, lan was an awe inspiring storm, with a textbook look on satellite and radar imagery, and it maintained this appearance well inland, even in the face of southwesterly shear on the order of 40 kts. The brilliant minds at the National Hurricane Center will be sifting through all available data and will dissect this storm
I was in the extreme end of northern Sarasota FL, roughly .8 miles from KSRQ during lan’s arrival. Throughout the event, I used two Kestrel 5500 weather meters to measure the strength of lan. Unfortunately, do to my position within the hotel and the surrounding area, I was unable to collect any real wind data. However, I did collect pressure data and was able to record a pressure of 991.4 millibars at 16:30. Around this time, the airport recorded its strongest wind’s of 53 sustained and a gust to 86, though the data is preliminary and subject to change. Overall, conditions in Sarasota did not deteriorate until around 11:00 AM EDT, it was at this time the power at our hotel went out, although the winds were not “strong” at that time. Due to the decrease in forward speed, and the weakening of the storm, lan
experienced an expansion of his wind field, and although the strength of his winds were decreasing, the core of strongest winds were spreading out further from the center, prolonging the negative wind effects for areas like Sarasota, Bradenton, Naples and points outside the eye-wall.
Further south, down the Tamiami Trail, places like Punta Gorda, Northport, Cape Coral and Ft. Myers had a completely different experience. The maximum wind speed recorded out of that area (available at the time of this analysis) was a gust of 123 MPH recorded at Punta Gorda. All of these areas experienced a direct impact from lan’s eye-wall. In fact, the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay issued not one, but two Extreme Wind Warnings (EWW) for Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Desoto, Manatee, Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties. The EWW is an extremely rare warning, issued only in cases of landfalling major hurricanes. Interestingly, between the EWW’s inception at the end of the 05′ hurricane season and 2015, no warnings were issued. However, since 2016, there has been at least one issued per year (except for 2019, when no landfalling major hurricanes occurred along the mainland US, although our friends in the Bahamas were hit hard by the effects of Category 5 Hurricane Dorian). This makes my second time being in the warning, with my first time being Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Despite lan’s destructive and catastrophic winds, the storm surge caused by lan will be one for the record books. Portions of Lee and Collier counties were completely washed away, with multiple buildings, cars and boats being washed away. Naples recorded a storm surge height of 7 feet before the station went offline, most likely due to being destroyed.
With this report being drafted only 5 days after landfall, a lot of this information is preliminary and may change as more data becomes available. One thing is certain: lan will go down in the record books as one of the most damaging storms this part of the world has seen. The people of Southwest Florida have a long way to go, and they are going to need all of the love and support they can get.
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