Hurricane Ian has been destructive on historical records.
President Biden has called it, “possibly the deadliest storm in Florida history.” As of mid-day Thursday, the death toll stood at 21 as officials said it is expected to rise.
It is also the fifth strongest to landfall in the United States as a top-end Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph.
Hurricane Ian is also the first hurricane a record number of people experienced.
“I knew they were bad; I just didn’t know they were going to be this bad,” said Payton Drake, who moved to Cape Coral, Florida from Iowa at the end of July.
Cape Coral was the closest municipality to Hurricane Ian’s eye as it made landfall Cayo Costa, an island only a few miles away, Wednesday afternoon.
Drake, who recently graduated from Iowa State University, moved to the area with his sister and one of her friends.
“All the doors right here started rumbling, shaking, so that’s when I started to get worried. What if those doors pop, what if those windows start popping?” he said.
During the pandemic, Florida saw more people move to its state than any other in the country. In 2021 alone, more than 220,800 moved to the state. The state with the second-highest number of incoming residents was Texas with 170,000.
According to US World News and Report, Fort Myers and Naples, two cities that felt some of the heaviest effects from Hurricane Ian, were two of the five fastest-growing metro areas in the country in 2021, meaning there are many families like Drake’s who experienced their first hurricane this week as well.
“It was kind of scary,” said Michelle Lewis, who moved to Estero, Florida, just outside of Ft. Myers in 2020. “It was like at that point I probably knew I had made a bad decision, but I really didn’t know. I was stuck.”
Lewis rode out the storm with her three kids and survived with very little damage to their home; a miracle, she says, considering the vast devastation surrounding her.
“People call in that their houses are filling [with water] and the reality of we’re so lucky, but oh my gosh, what did we just survive?” she said. “I feel so fortunate and my heart breaks for the people that lost everything.”
If there is a lesson to be learned, Lewis and Drake say it is to heed the warnings from officials and to take these natural disasters seriously, as not everyone might be as fortunate as they are.