Plant Students Grateful After Worst of Hurricane Ian Misses Tampa


Ava Satterfield

On Sept. 26, the National Hurricane Center predicts Hurricane Ian’s path, potentially hitting Tampa as a major hurricane. Tampa experienced much better conditions than forecasted, as Ian made landfall 100 miles south of Tampa, in Lee County. [National Hurricane Center]

Forty-eight hours before Hurricane Ian hit Florida, forecasters predicted the Category 4 storm would make direct landfall on Tampa Bay. But it didn’t. Hurricane Ian shifted 100 miles south of Tampa, and on Sept. 28, made landfall and devastated the Fort Myers area.   

Before the hurricane shifted its course, Tampa residents rushed to fill sandbags and stock up on essentials, emptying the shelves of water, bread and batteries. Senior Raquel Rodriguez shared how she prepared for the storm.   

“My dad and I picked up sandbags from the YMCA next to our house and boarded up our large windows with wood,” Rodriguez said. “We also got gas to have enough for our generator and bought canned food to eat in case we lost power. I was nervous about damage because we recently renovated our house and I knew it would be a stressful expense for my family especially as I’m about to go off to college.”  

Rodriguez said her neighborhood did not flood, so she did not have to use the sandbags. She was relieved that the storm did not directly hit Tampa.    

“I feel very thankful that the hurricane didn’t hit Tampa,” Rodriguez said. “I personally have never been in a severe hurricane before and since we didn’t evacuate, I couldn’t imagine the damage to our neighborhoods it would have caused. I also feel very sympathetic to the people who were severely affected by the hurricane. My family and I have been looking for ways to donate materials and get involved in the relief.”  

With Tampa expected to take a direct hit, Hillsborough County issued a mandatory evacuation for around 300,000 residents. Bela Ott, a sophomore, lives on Harbor Island and was forced to leave her home.   

“My mom, dog, and I evacuated to Orlando,” Ott said, “I came home to clean and pack away my entire house. I made sure to bring my dog, Paco, my expensive technology, my favorite jewelry and clothes. After seeing the destruction in Ft. Myers, I feel so lucky that my mom and I were able to evacuate, even if Tampa wasn’t hit very hard.”  

Tampa experienced significantly better conditions than initially expected. According to the National Weather Service, Ian passed through Tampa as a Category 1 hurricane, with peak wind gusts of 95 mph. Wind speeds caused 295,000 Hillsborough County residents to lose power. Nearly all of those customers had electricity restored within five days. Southwest Florida underwent much worse effects of Ian.  

Lee County, where Ian made landfall, suffered near Category 5 level winds of 155 mph. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. Officials reported at least 127 deaths statewide, many caused by drowning. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said Tampa is sending resources to help affected areas.   

“Our community was spared much of the devastating impacts originally forecasted,” Castor wrote on her Instagram. “Now we shift our focus to the needs of our neighbors in Southwest Florida. The City of Tampa is sending first responders and resources to assist in their recovery.”  

Senior Addison Gear has family in Fort Myers and visits often. She said Fort Myers is a special place, and she is heartbroken for its residents.   

“Without living there physically, Fort Myers is a major part of who I am,” Gear said. “Seemingly every holiday I visit Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine Island with both sides of my family living there. People I love greatly, people who cannot be replaced, and too many residents of the Fort Myers area have been affected by Hurricane Ian- losing homes, water and food supply, power, cell service, transportation, and so much more.”  

Gear encourages fellow Plant students and Tampa residents to recognize their fortune.   

“I urge you to remember that if Ian had not shifted further east, that could’ve been Tampa,” Gear said. “That could’ve been us.”

Support Hurricane Ian relief:  

http://Southwest Florida Community Foundation

http://Tampa Donation Drive

http://Feeding America

http://Red Cross