The National Hurricane Center today released a tropical cyclone report on 2022’s Hurricane Ian in which they upgraded the system to a Category 5 hurricane through post-season and post-storm analysis. Hurricane Ian made a catastrophic landfall on the southwest coast of Florida last September and made a secondary landfall on the South Carolina coast.
Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida at category 4 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, producing catastrophic storm surge, damaging winds, and historic freshwater flooding across much of central and northern Florida. Ian was responsible for over 150 direct and indirect deaths and over $112 billion in damage, making it the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history and the third-costliest in United States history. Ian also made landfall as a category 3 hurricane in western Cuba bringing widespread damage and loss of
power to the entire island. Ian made its final landfall as a category 1 hurricane in South Carolina.
In the report released today, the National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Ian reached Category 5 status briefly before impacting Florida. The report says, “A profile of the winds from the NOAA P-3 Tail Doppler Radar showed a shallow maximum of winds largely below the aircraft altitude with speeds exceeding 160 kt 500-1000 ft (150-300 m) above the surface. The combination of these data, and the consideration of potential undersampling from the SFMR3, support a peak intensity of 140 kt.” 140 kt translates into 161 mph winds.
However, while the National Hurricane Center is providing the technical clarity of the storm structure and intensity, they caution that there is “very little practical difference between a 140-kt category 5 and a 135-kt category 4 hurricane”, which is the intensity Ian was when it did strike Florida.
As a Category 4 storm near Category 5 strength, Hurricane Ian was lethal. According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Ian caused an estimated $112.9 billion worth of total damage in the United States (with a 90% confidence interval of $86.8 to $135.9 billion), making Ian the third-costliest United States hurricane on record. Of that total, $109.5 billion occurred in Florida, making Ian the costliest hurricane to ever affect that state. In southwestern Florida, the catastrophic storm surge and wind left a huge swath of complete destruction. In Fort Myers Beach alone, an estimated 900 structures were totally destroyed and 2,200 were damaged. In Lee County, at least 52,514 structures were impacted, of which 5,369 were destroyed and 14,245 received major damage. Bridges and roadways were also severely damaged or destroyed. Roads and bridges to Sanibel and Pine Islands were washed away, limiting access to either by boat or helicopter. A portion of Interstate 75 in southern Sarasota County was shut down due to flooding from the Myakka River. In Collier County, 33 buildings were destroyed, and over 3,500 buildings sustained major damage while at least 200 homes were destroyed in Charlotte County.