Florida Braces for Extreme Drought After Weathering Hurricane Ian

by Lauren Boisvert
(Image Credit: Kevin Fleming/Getty Images)

After Hurricane Ian swept through southwest Florida, the Sunshine State now has to brace for intense drought and possible wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center issued a statement, saying, “Locally critical fire weather conditions are expected across far southwest Georgia, southern Alabama, the western Florida Panhandle, southern Mississippi, and south Louisiana.”

With the storm moving counter-clockwise, it brought winds from the north and low humidity. Truly, the weather in Florida was beautiful after the hurricane. But, that comes with a cost. After a scorching summer, the forests and grasslands are already dry. This makes the perfect fuel for wildfires.

“The combination of the strong surface high to the north and the strong pressure gradient around Hurricane Ian will drive moderately strong northerly winds across much of the Southeast,” said the Florida Forest Service. “With these areas remaining dry, fuels are receptive to fire spread.”

Parts of northwest Florida are dangerously close to severe drought levels, according to Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures dryness levels in the soil. Though, while northwest Florida is bracing for drought, south Florida is soaked. Torrential rains during and after Hurricane Ian dumped upwards of 12 inches of water in 24 hours.

Wildfires can follow hurricanes not only because of drought. Additionally, strong winds leave downed trees and debris in their wake, fueling the subsequent fires.

Hurricane Ian Pummeled Florida, Leaving 2.5 Million People Without Power

Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida as a category 4 storm, knocking out power for upwards of 2.5 million people on Thursday. As of Oct. 1, 1.5 million people are without power as crews in Florida and from neighboring states work to get power restored.

In North Carolina, about 161,000 residents went without power, while Puerto Rico sat at 200,000. Puerto Rico just recovered from Hurricane Fiona, as well, which left many residents without power before Ian approached. In South Carolina, 187,000 residents were without power on Saturday. In both the Carolinas, the total comes to almost 350,000 residents without power.

All those numbers aside, the most devastating power loss came during Hurricane Ian’s first landfall in Cuba. The storm knocked out the entire power grid, plunging the large island into darkness. Now, some power has been restored, but residents are protesting in the streets in the wake of the storm.

Cubans Protest Loss of Power, Officials Meet with Residents to Discuss Options

Four days after Hurricane Ian, much of Cuba is still without power. Residents are losing food and valuable supplies. They haven’t had light in days, and while power has been restored in much of Havana, the capital, surrounding neighborhoods and communities are still without. Residents in the Vedado neighborhood gathered peacefully to protest on Saturday, and the Cuban government send state officials to discuss the issues. Protests also gathered in western Mantanzas and eastern Holguin.