Travel Risk Level: HIGH
Hurricane IAN, one of the most fierce storms to have ever struck mainland United States, made landfall near Punta Gorda on September 29. With a maximum sustained windspeed of 233 km/h, Florida’s Gulf Coast has been battling the hurricane and tornadoes, flooding, and storm surges. A vast stretch of beaches and coastal towns turned into disaster zones overnight after seawater’s inundation. An estimated 2.7 million people are experiencing power outages, with an undetermined timeline for restoration. Emergency services remain restricted as rescue crews wade through flooded streets to save thousands of people trapped in drowned homes and collapsed buildings. Airports across Florida remain suspended until conditions improve, affecting over 5,000 flights. Some airports are functional only for emergency operations. IAN has now crossed into the Atlantic Ocean and is currently churning toward South Carolina.
Fort Myers Beach was among the hardest hit, with storm surges reaching the roofs of some houses. Other hard-hit areas include Sanibel Causeway, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, and Bonita Springs. Mobile homes faced significant destruction—a mobile home community in Fort Myers Beach was completely decimated. Several residences in Davie and Pembroke Pines were severely damaged by a tornado. A resident, Ivan Mendoza, commented, “Not even 20 seconds later, we were feeling it already inside the house, so there was no time to react. It was just everybody getting together and that’s it.” As of September 30, 12 people were confirmed dead due to the storm. However, the actual number is gauged to be higher. The official tourism marketing authority of Florida, Visit Florida, in partnership with Expedia set up an emergency accommodations page to assist anyone who has been ordered to evacuate immediately. Additionally, Uber is offering free round-trip rides, up to USD 30 each way, to and from state-approved evacuation shelters. Mandatory evacuation orders are in place for coastal communities, mobile homes, and low-lying areas in the following counties:
Important Information and Helpline Numbers:
- The State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) is a toll-free hotline activated at the time of an emergency to provide an additional resource for those in Florida.
- SAIL hotline: 800-342-3557
- Travellers can access Special Needs Shelter Information in the event of immediate evacuation. Open shelters can be accessed here.
- It is recommended to keep an evacuation kit handy which includes:
- List of medications and dosage and a 30-day supply of medications
- Vital medical equipment for those who may be electrically or oxygen dependent
- Backup energy sources (such as batteries) for essential medical equipment
- Special dietary needs or food, if needed
- Personal information including a photo ID, insurance card, emergency contacts and your primary care provider’s contact information
- Individuals affected by Hurricane IAN can apply for assistance via www.disasterassistance.gov or call on 1–800-621-3362.
- Access instant Twitter updates on the FL Division of Emergency Management.
- It is advised to download the FEMA Application available on iOS and Android, to receive weather alerts, disaster resources, and preparedness tips.
- Check with https://floridastateparks.org/StormUpdates for closings to state parks in the event of a disaster.
- For traffic updates:
- Florida 511 – for latest, real-time traffic conditions and incident information for the State of Florida
- Florida Highway Patrol – Florida Highway Patrol Live Traffic Crash and Road Condition Report that are updated every five minutes
- Florida Traffic – Traffic incidents and conditions from Florida 511 and Florida Highway Patrol
- Businesses offering services and assistance for Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian can be found here.