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Assessing the impact of Hurricane Ian, one year later; Hernando County recovers from Idalia

Hurricane Ian at peak intensity while approaching southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022.
Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Program, CC BY-SA 4.0
Wikimedia Commons
Hurricane Ian at peak intensity while approaching southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022.

Florida Matters revisits parts of the greater Tampa Bay region that are still rebuilding one year after Hurricane Ian, and explores the storm's mental and physical toll.

WUSF journalists report on the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which made landfallon Sept. 28 last year, carving a destructive path through Southwest Florida and dumping flooding rain on a wide swath of the state.

Stephanie Colombini talks with health care advocates in Sarasota about Hurricane Ian’s impact and lessons for the future.

Cathy Carter takes us inside the historic Venice Theater as the theater company works to restore the community landmark.

And Kerry Sheridan explores what Ian revealed about communicating the risk posed by hurricanes and why evacuation warnings are sometimes ignored.

We also check in on one community that was affected by Hurricane Idalia nearly a month ago.

Idalia brought a powerful storm surge to a large swath of the Gulf Coast as it barreled into the Big Bend area.

Some Hernando County residents were faced with a big cleanup after their homes and businesses flooded in the hours after the storm passed.

We speak with county administrator Jeff Rogers about how the county is coping.

Rogers says there were "five to ten" families that were displaced after their homes flooded and two houses that were completely destroyed by fire during the hurricane.

Rogers says residents who need temporary housing or other help can talk to FEMA officials at the Hernando Public Library in Spring Hill or the County Emergency Management office.

In the meantime, the county has already cleared 5,000 tons of storm debris.

"We've had a little bit of a challenge that some of our streets are very, very narrow, these small streets next to the waterways and so we've had to get some actually smaller trucks to get down these roadways," Rogers said.

Rogers says Idalia had an impact on tourism, and the county will take a financial hit from lost bed tax revenue as vacation rental owners repair their properties.

Rogers says being proactive and closing schools early may have helped encourage people to evacuate. And he says a decision by Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative to shut off power ahead of the storm surge reduced the risk of fires.

"Those decisions to turn the power off? They're tough decisions to make. But I think in the future, we are going to be more bold about telling people that as the storm surge comes up, we will be turning off all your services. And we will do it sooner and then that will probably help people know not to stay there."

Rogers says only a few people had to be rescued during the storm, including a mother and her son who were trapped on top of their car in Pine Island. Firefighters used an airboat to reach them.

"It's kind of scary when you put your first responders out in the storm event not knowing that they're gonna make it back so I really give them a lot of credit for doing that."

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.