WASHINGTON – Rescue workers and residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast searched for missing people and picked up the pieces from wrecked homes on Thursday after Hurricane Ian tore through the area with howling winds, torrential rains and raging surf and caused massive power outages.
One of the mightiest storms to hit the US mainland in recent years, Ian flooded communities before plowing across the peninsula to the Atlantic seaboard. Local power companies said more than 2.5 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power.
Governor Ron DeSantis said that Lee and Charlotte counties, home to more than 900,000 people, were “basically off the grid.”
Ian blasted ashore at the barrier island of Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (241 kph). It rapidly transformed Florida’s southwestern shoreline, dotted with sandy beaches, coastal towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as it swept seawater into waterfront homes.
“The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that was done was historic,” DeSantis said during a news briefing. “We have never seen a flood event like this. We have never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.”
Sending funds and aid to communities affected
Meanwhile, local Jewish communities were assessing the damages, and preparing to send funds and aid to communities that were impacted most.
Julie Platt, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America told The Jerusalem Post that, while the organization is still assessing the damage, “it’s clear that many communities in Ian’s path will have significant needs.”
“Jewish Federations are especially well-positioned to help in these kinds of situations, which is why we have opened an emergency collection for donations and are preparing to provide emergency grants to the communities hit by this devastating storm,” Platt said.
Alissa Fischel, chief development and engagement officer at the Jewish Federation of Tampa, said that her community was “very lucky.”
“We have some power outages around town, but there appears to be very minimal damage,” she said. The Federation, which is expected to reopen its offices on Friday, is working to help other communities in need.
“We’ve already reached out to all of the regional federations,” said Fischel. “We are prepared to send help. We are collecting funds as well as any non-perishable food and hygiene items. We’re collecting them at both of our locations in Tampa, and we are hoping to be able to get those to the areas that are in need during the week.”
Maxine Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, said she is coordinating with other federations in an effort to travel to the impacted communities and help with cleanup efforts. She noted that, while her area saw relatively mild damage, the community is still waiting for power restoration.
Reuters contributed to this report.