Answering the Call in the Wake of Hurricane Ian
- Hurricane Ian caused an estimated 56 billion dollars of damage in
- At 150 mph, Ian’s landfall wind speed in Florida ties for the fifth strongest on record in the US.
On September 28, Hurricane Ian demonstrated nature’s incredible force when it made landfall on Florida’s southwestern coast, just 100 miles south of Clearwater. Fueled by catastrophic 150-mile-per-hour winds, the Category 4 hurricane caused widespread damage and extensive flooding. While the extent of the destruction is still being quantified, the speed of the winds alone places Ian among the top five most powerful hurricanes in US history.
The damage was described by many as “apocalyptic,” especially in the hardest hit Lee County areas of Fort Myers and nearby Sanibel Island. Homes, businesses, roads, bridges and cars were destroyed. Many towns remained underwater after the destructive storm surges, and hundreds of thousands had yet to have power safely restored days after the hurricane passed. In Fort Myers, the storm surge rose to 7.2 feet—almost four feet higher than anything on record.
Once the scale of the catastrophe became known, an emergency IAS grant was provided for VM disaster relief. That translated to green‑lighting the deployment of hundreds of Volunteer Ministers to bring much-needed help.
While assistance was needed all along Hurricane Ian’s path, the most disaster-stricken zone—from North Port to Fort Myers and Cape Coral—required the VMs’ help most urgently.
With IAS grant support, the VMs were able to immediately spring into action. Armed with tons of emergency supplies and heavy equipment, hundreds of VMs provided disaster relief in Fort Myers. Another team of VMs headed to Orlando, which suffered heavy flooding.
VMs deployed to North Port, where they got to work clearing away debris and distributing vital supplies. To open up key access routes, VMs waded through deep water and cut down obstructing trees with chainsaws. Floodwaters were so high in parts of the city that streets were impassable. To distribute water and essentials to those stranded in more inaccessible areas, VMs acquired some flat-bottomed motor boats. Some of the requests they handled in North Port were very time-sensitive and critical, such as the wife of a man on an oxygen-support system that urgently needed more gas to run the machine’s generator, or a woman who desperately needed ice to preserve her insulin.
Further down the coast, a group of more than 100 VMs did a massive cleanup in the downtown area of Fort Myers in coordination with the police department. One of those they helped was a 97-year-old war veteran who was overjoyed when they cleared away debris that had caved in his home. When a city official came upon VMs at work and heard that more than 100 of them were active in the city, he said, “That’s amazing. On behalf of all the people of Fort Myers, I would like to thank you all.”
In Kissimmee, south of Orlando, VMs worked shoulder to shoulder with members of the US Army and helped set up and staff a shelter at Osceola Heritage Park, which became a temporary place of refuge for 300 evacuees whose homes were damaged by the hurricane.
To date, more than 700 VMs have helped in the relief efforts in Florida. With the generous support of IAS members, Volunteer Ministers are bringing help to whole communities in the wake of a major natural disaster—proving once again that no matter the circumstances, something can be done about it.
If you would like to volunteer in any way, please contact Volunteer Ministers Florida at +1 (727) 467-6965.