The First Hurricane Ian Disaster Assessment in Florida Reveals Great Need

Southern  |  October 4, 2022
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Written by Judy So
Translated by H.B. Qin and Ariel Chan
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

One of the strongest hurricanes in U.S. history, Hurricane Ian, made landfall in Florida on September 28, 2022, leaving the state’s southwest coast severely damaged. Tzu Chi USA activated its disaster relief mechanism immediately. 

On October 2, Tzu Chi USA Southern Region’s Miami Service Center volunteers contacted Colliers County Commissioner Penny Taylor, whom they met during Hurricane Irma relief in 2017. They arranged to survey disaster areas in Naples and Everglades City jointly. 

On the day of surveying, James French, Deputy Department Head at the Collier County Growth Management Department, who has in-depth knowledge of the disaster-stricken areas, drove the volunteers there personally to understand current conditions and urgent assistance needs.

Even the home of a Collier County worker incurred water damage due to flooding. He just moved here five months ago, yet he was grateful that his family was safe. Photo/Changzhi Cai

The Storm Surge Caused Severe Damages

In Naples, most of the city is currently without water and power following the Hurricane Ian storm surge. Although most houses here are raised, the flood waters still reached three to five feet in the interiors. Since all the furniture was soaked, residents had to discard everything by the side of the road for cleaning crews to pick up.

After Hurricane Ian, discarded flood-damaged property lines Danford Street in Naples. Photo/Changzhi Cai

One family of three living with an elderly dog on Danford Street in Naples chose to remain in their flooded home since they couldn’t bring their pet to the shelter. And so, they had to sleep on cold, wet mattresses at night, which was heartbreaking. Luckily, they met the survey team that day.  James French from Collier County exchanged contacts with them to assist with relocating this family.

Once moldy furniture is thrown out after the flood waters recede in Everglades City, empty interiors needing reconstruction are left. Photo/Changzhi Cai

In Everglades City, the situation was equally dire. For example, the Everglades City fire station was uninhabitable due to the three-foot flood. After finishing a day of frontline assistance, firefighters could only rest in nearby fire stations overnight.

The marks on the walls indicate the height of the flood. Photo/Judy Su

Forging Tzu Chi USA’s Disaster Relief Response

After surveying the disaster zones, the assessment team returned to the Emergency Operations Center in Collier County to confer with Commissioner Penny Taylor and other staff members about which areas required the most urgent assistance. 

The Hurricane Ian Emergency Operations Center crew exchanges information about disaster conditions with Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo/Changzhi Cai

They determined that over 5,000 families expect help in Naples and Everglades City. Concurrently, Hurricane Ian survivors hope the water and power supply will resume normalcy so that they can begin their reconstruction work.

Miami Service Center volunteers Mingzhe Lin, Changzhi Cai, Hugnfeng Su, Lilan Chen, and Judy Su take a group photo with Commissioner Penny Taylor (fourth right) and other Collier County staff members. Photo/Judy Su

This first Hurricane Ian damage assessment reveals the tip of a mountain of needs in Florida. Join hands with us to help Floridians recover from this devastating catastrophe. Your generosity and love empower our disaster relief.

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