After passing over Cuba, leaving millions there without power, Hurricane Ian made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida on Wednesday, September 28, as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 155 mph and heavy rain—estimates currently range between 12 to 14 inches in central and northeastern Florida. It also brought an historic storm surge to the Florida coast, with estimates of surges between 12 to 18 feet along the coastal Fort Myers area. Officials said that at least 21 deaths have been caused by the hurricane, with search-and-rescue efforts continuing, and almost 2 million people remain without power.
The storm has since moved over the state into the Atlantic, and is tracking northward. It made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
On Saturday, September 24, President Joe Biden approved an Emergency Declaration for the state, directed the heads of federal agencies to provide additional resources to the region. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also is coordinating across the government to support recovery and response efforts by positioning generators, millions of meals and millions of liters of water.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued evacuation orders for an estimated 2.5 million people, which presented challenges given that a significant amount of the population is above 65, many of whom reside in long-term care centers. It is estimated that 17% of the total exposed population of 11.1 million is elderly. Florida’s National Guard also pre-positioned soldiers, airmen and equipment at bases throughout the state.
International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team was on the ground when the storm hit, collaborating directly with the Florida Department of Health and our partners PanCare and the Florida Association of Clinics, which represents federally qualified healthcare centers in the state. In anticipation of the storm’s landfall in Florida, we had prepositioned a mobile medical unit (MMU) and a mobile command center, as well as critical supplies, including tarps, generators, solar lamps and drinking water.
As part of our long-standing relationship with the Florida Department of Health, we also stand ready to activate nurse strike teams, medical task force teams and MMUs to support the state’s response as requested. Upcoming anticipated needs include emergency healthcare; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services; and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, including psychological first aid (PFA).
Drawing on decades of experience responding to natural disasters, International Medical Corps has provided emergency health services in Florida since 2017, after Hurricane Irma struck the southern portion of the state. After Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 5 hurricane in 2018, International Medical Corps collaborated with the Florida Department of Health to deploy multiple teams of doctors and nurses to medical facilities and special-needs shelters providing primary healthcare to people affected by the storm. We also deployed a health facility in the Panhandle, helping to keep healthcare services operational while existing facilities were rebuilt.
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