Hurricane Ian Devastates Florida’s West Coast

Hurricane Ian
Source: noaa.gov radar as of 4:35 p.m. EST on October 28

Making landfall Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s West Coast—a catastrophic mix of winds and storm surge.

Many of Florida’s West Coast resort destinations—popular spots for incentive groups—felt the brunt of the historic Category 4 storm, which had sustained winds of 150 mph when it made landfall near Cayo Costa, Fla.

Initially hardest hit by the storm, which measured 500 miles across, were the barrier islands of Sanibel, whose causeway was seriously damaged, and Captiva, the location of South Seas Island Resort, as well as nearby Fort Meyers and Cape Coral on the mainland. The storm moved north to Punta Gorda and Sarasota, where the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport was heavily damaged, before driving inland across much of the state, causing major flooding in parts of Orlando and Kissimmee. In Orlando, both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios were closed. The St. John’s River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean in St. Augustine, was reported as rising as much as 4 feet in a matter of hours.

“The impacts of this storm were historic. We’ve never seen a flood event like this,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in a Thursday morning press conference. “You’re looking at a storm that has changed the character of a significant part of our state. This is going to require not just emergency response now and in the days or weeks ahead but years of effort to rebuild and to come back.”

DeSantis reported more than two million power outages, the majority of them in Lee and Charlotte counties, where portable cellphone towers were being installed.

Images of submerged cars and devastating flooding in the hardest-hit communities, including Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Naples, dominated the news. Naples is home to many resorts popular with groups, among them the Ritz-Carlton, Naples and Ritz-Carlton Golf Resorts, LaPlaya Beach Resort, Edgewater Beach Hotel and Naples Grande Beach Resort, and Fort Myers is the location of the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa.

As of Thursday morning, helicopter rescues had begun of people stranded in their attics and on roofs in the barrier islands. In Collier Country, officials tweeted a warning not to drive in City of Naples and reported that half of the streets are impassable due to high water. Marco Island, home to the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, was under mandatory evacuation before the storm and all roads were under water.

The infrastructure remained intact throughout the 125-mile-long Florida Keys chain of islands, with reports from Key West of flooded and impassable roads due to the storm surge or fallen trees.

The State of Florida Disaster Fund is accepting donations here, or by texting “disaster” to 20222. Rosen Hotels & Resorts has activated its Florida Resident Distress Rate at its Orlando-area hotels, with rates starting at $69.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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