Hurricane Ian is the deadliest hurricane to threaten the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Prior to the hurricane’s landfall near Fort Myers, FL, on Sept. 28, 2022, at 3 p.m, weather experts were uncertain about the path that the storm would take. Experts initially estimated that the storm would make landfall near Tallahassee or Tampa; in reality, however, it landed farther south. It moved at dangerously high speeds of 150 mph and was therefore classified as a Category 4 hurricane.
Such natural disasters inflict deep physical, financial, and emotional wounds on their victims. People in affected areas have to struggle with the deaths of loved ones, relocation, increased insurance and medical fees, and disruptions in work or school life. Most recently, Hurricane Ian has also resulted in health hazards for residents affected by severe flooding, as storm waters are reported to have been contaminated with a rare and deadly flesh-eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus. Out of the 28 cases reported in Florida, seven people have died.
The Phoenix interviewed students from Florida, who shared their experiences with this devastating hurricane. Max Lindstrom ’26, like most Swarthmore students, was not in Florida during Hurricane Ian but reflected on his general anxiety that arises during hurricane season at the end of each summer.
“I’ve been in a situation before where you have to evacuate your home because there’s a big storm coming. That’s a very scary thing because you’re leaving everything behind, and there’s a storm that could take it all away,” he said.
Emma Solórzano ’26 from Miami described the disruptive and isolating nature of hurricanes.
“It can definitely be very scary because [in Miami] we’re all commuters and … driving in a hurricane is terrifying,” she shared. “Even if the hurricane hasn’t quite hit yet, the storms are really bad which makes it very hard to leave your house. It reminds us of lockdowns because you have to stay in for several days at a time.”
Zoe Myers-Bochner ’23 from Orlando, FL, addressed the drastic effects the hurricane had on her family — especially her grandmother, who was stuck inside her apartment during the storm.
“The first floor of [my grandma’s] building pretty much flooded. Her electricity was shot, the elevators were completely useless, and she couldn’t get up and down the stairs so she was essentially trapped in her apartment for a while,” she said. “On very short notice she is moving back in with us … So that’s honestly been really stressful for my family.”
Solórzano further explained how despite this fear, people living in at-risk areas are so accustomed to hurricanes that they develop a mode of indifference.
“I guess we’re really desensitized to it at this point. Just ’cause we get hurricane warnings several times a year. It’s kind of horrible but when a hurricane comes we’re like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s just another one that’s gonna hit us,’” she said.
Solórzano is not the only person who feels this way about hurricanes. Myers-Bochner also described the complicated emotions that come with hurricane season in a similar way.
“I think being from Florida, hurricanes are scary and they always scare me, but I think there’s a certain level of desensitivity to it. As in, I’ve lived through so many of them,” she said. “I remember when I was in high school when school closed for a hurricane but the hurricane hadn’t quite hit yet, everyone would throw massive parties.”
While Myers-Bochner was not at home during Hurricane Ian, her friends at home sent her pictures of damage from the hurricane, which, to her, looked normal.
“Even though I wasn’t there, my friends back home were sending me pictures of flooding and water running down streets and massive tree branches strewn all over the yards and it’s the classic kind of hurricane deal.”
This desensitization, though, can be extremely dangerous because it may prevent people from taking shelter during hurricane warnings. According to the Washington Post, people who live in areas where tornadoes are frequent but personal damage is minimal tend to downplay warnings about incoming storms. This can, in turn, lead to highly dangerous situations where people do not react until it is too late.
Although people living in the middle regions of the United States, including Swarthmore, have a protective barrier from such hurricanes, there are still ways that people can help those affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Ian.
Myers-Bochner shared how simply asking how people are doing can greatly help their well-being and peace of mind.
“Checking in on your friends who have loved ones or who live in areas affected by hurricanes, by being like, ‘Hey I know your hometown is going through a rough time right now, is there anything I can do to support you?’ means a lot,” she explained.
In addition, spreading awareness is extremely important in mitigating natural disasters. Solórzano described how using social media is a highly effective way to give voice to those who cannot advocate for themselves.
“Reposting from credible sources, such as the New York Times, about how devastating the impact is a really good way of spreading awareness … Sometimes the NYT will highlight a specific person, and they are telling their story and their personal impact from the hurricane,” she said. “That is an excellent way of spreading awareness because then you’re giving voice to someone who was actually affected … It’s always about redirecting attention to the people that need it.”
Lindstrom described how as an institution, Swarthmore also has a responsibility to help the current situation.
“As an institution, it’s hard but I think the best thing to do is to raise awareness and if possible, donate … And just encourage people to educate themselves, especially if they live in an area that is affected by hurricanes, do their research and be best prepared as possible.”
Solórzano, Myers-Bochner, and Lindstrom also suggested donating to GoFund pages and signing petitions. Below are a few resources that provide resources to individuals impacted by natural disasters: