A view of Hurricane Ian from the International Space Station as the monstrous storm makes its way to Florida's west coast after passing Cuba.
A view of Hurricane Ian from the International Space Station as the monstrous storm makes its way to Florida's west coast after passing Cuba. Image Credit: Twitter | ISS


  • 1 million customers lose power in Florida hurricane.
  •  Florida gets hammered by Category 4 storm.
  • Tourism industry could take $7 billion hit.
  • Storm season could be a harbinger of sort of what is to come. 

Hurricane Ian is quickly gaining monstrous strength as it moves over oceans partly heated up by climate change, just like 30 other Atlantic tropical storms since 2017 that became much more powerful in less than a day

1 million without power

More than one million customers lost power in Florida as Hurricane Ian made landfall Wednesday, a tracking website recorded, with the number expected to rise as high winds, heavy rain and floods take their toll.

Of 11 million customers tracked in Florida, 1,040,000 were suffering outages, PowerOutages.us reported.

Monstrous strength

Hurricane Ian is quickly gaining monstrous strength as it moves over oceans partly heated up by climate change, just like 30 other Atlantic tropical storms since 2017 that became much more powerful in less than a day.

This turbocharging of storms is likely to become even more frequent as the world gets warmer, scientists say.

After getting 67% stronger in less than 22 hours from Monday to Tuesday, Ian is bearing down as a likely Category 4 hurricane that threatens to deliver a nightmare storm-surge to the Tampa Bay and southwest Florida regions.

Rapid intensification

Ian's rapid intensification occurred after it traveled over Caribbean waters that are about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than normal, largely because of climate change. Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said the warm water creates "a lot more rocket fuel for the storm.''

Climate change has other effects. The build up of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels is making storms slower and wetter. It exacerbates deadly storm surges through sea-level rise, worsens freshwater flooding and increases the proportion of monster Category 4 and 5 storms, like Fiona last week, several studies show.

The current hurricane season had been uncharacteristically mild until about a week ago because of dry air in the Atlantic. Yet while storms aren't necessarily more frequent, they are getting nastier because of global warming, experts say.

Biden to oil industry: Don't raise prices due to hurricane

President Joe Biden on Wednesday warned oil and gas companies against increasing prices for consumers as Hurricane Ian lashed Florida's southwest coast.

"Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people,'' Biden said at the start of a conference on hunger in America and just hours before the hurricane made landfall as a massive Category 4 storm.

Biden said that the hurricane "provides no excuse for price increases at the pump'' and if it happens, he will ask federal officials to determine ''whether price gauging is going on.''

"America is watching. The industry should do the right thing,'' Biden added.

There are few signs that average gas prices have jumped significantly in Florida as the hurricane began to approach. AAA put the statewide average at just under $3.40 a gallon, six-tenths of a cent higher than a week ago.

A 99-day run of falling pump prices nationally ended recently, and the 14-week decline was the longest streak since 2015.

The nationwide average price had risen past $5 a gallon -- and $6 in California -- in June as the economic recovery and an increase in travel boosted demand for gasoline and Russia's war in Ukraine caused a spike in oil prices.

Harbinger of what is to come

"In terms of impacts and climate change, yes, this season could be a harbinger of sort of what is to come,'' said University of Albany hurricane scientist Kristen Corbosiero. "But it's really hard to say that climate change has an impact on any one storm in terms of its formation or its individual intensity.''

The National Hurricane Center defines rapidly intensifying storms as those that gain at least 35 mph in wind speed in less than 24 hours. Sudden changes can cause major problems for forecasters and emergency planners trying to help residents get out of harm's way.

In Ian's case, the meteorological conditions were so obvious that forecasters were warning about it days in advance.

25% more rapid intensifying

While hurricane seasons fluctuate year-to-year, when looked at over 10-year intervals, there are roughly 25% more rapidly intensifying storms in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific now than 40 years ago, according to an analysis of National Hurricane Center data by The Associated Press. From 2017 to 2021 there have been 30 rapidly intensifying storms in the Atlantic and 32 in the Eastern Pacific.

"That's a staggering statistic,'' said former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate and hurricane scientist Jim Kossin, now with the private Climate Service, a risk analysis firm. "What used to be a very, very rare event obviously has not been rare lately."


A new yet-to-be-published study in a peer-reviewed journal shows that as hurricanes near the coast -- a danger point for people -- storms are intensifying more quickly than ever before, said Karthik Balaguru, a Pacific Northwest National Lab climate scientist who conducted the study. "It's more likely because of climate change,'' he said.

As water gets warmer at ever deeper levels, the rapid intensification of tropical storms will only accelerate.

"We're turning up the burner on a stove,'' said Kossin.

More powerful hurricanes hold more moisture, which makes them more explosive in the form of torrential rains and storm surges, experts say.

As if that weren't bad enough, research also shows that storms now tend to move more slowly, allowing them to dump more rain in one place, like 2017's Hurricane Harvey, which devastated parts of Louisiana and Texas.

While Ian is expected to slow near the Florida coast and dump huge amounts of rain it is not expected to be near Harvey's level of more than 50 inches.

As storms intensify more rapidly and more frequently, forecasters and emergency planners are given less time to help communities prepare for the worst.

Jefferson Parish, a region of 430,000 people west of New Orleans, got hit last year by Hurricane Ida. That storm's winds went from 80 mph (130 kilometers per hour) to nearly 140 mph (220 kilometers per hour) in 24 hours, leaving little time to evacuate residents.

"Time in preparing for a storm is your complete ally,'' said Joseph Valiente, the director of emergency management for Jefferson Parish.

Evacuating people ahead of big storms helps relieve the strain on city services, which ultimately helps a city recover faster, Valiente said.

Florida tourism could take $7 billion Hurricane Ian hit

Guests at that and other Disney properties in Orlando, Florida, stocked up on $5 breakfast boxes and $7 sandwiches, as Hurricane Ian made its way toward the state.

Disney, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. closed their Florida theme parks this week as Ian neared, but Disney and Universal kept many of their hotels open so guests could take shelter from the storm.

Ports on both sides of the state have shut down, forcing big cruise operators like Carnival Corp. to cancel departures and reroute ships. Airlines canceled thousands of flights and Tampa International Airport closed.

Florida ranks among the most-visited states by both foreign and domestic tourists. Orlando alone welcomed 59.3 million visitors last year. And the state's tourism industry had been roaring back after two years of pandemic. But Ian, heading straight toward the center of the Sunshine State, could upend that.

$5 billion damage to hotels

Physical damage to Florida's tourism infrastructure, mostly hotels, could reach $5 billion, estimates Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. Lost revenue from tourists not being able to rent boats, ride theme-park rides or buy drinks at the pool, could top $2 billion.

The state's tourism industry has plenty of experience with storms. Hurricane Irma, in September 2017, forced Disney to close its theme parks for two days and cancel three cruises. The parks reopened with minimal damage, however, and the first guests to return got a treat: lighter-than-usual crowds.

Other storms that year, including Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, caused trouble for the cruise industry. They canceled some trips and redirected others. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. sent their empty ships to the Caribbean to evacuate tourists from the islands. Royal Caribbean reported a $55 million earnings hit due to the storms that year.