Hurricane Ian's destruction of Florida caught live on webcams

Chaos caused by '500-year flooding event' streamed and viewed by millions around the world

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The US National Hurricane Centre said on Friday that Hurricane Ian still poses a threat to lives along the coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and urged residents to follow local advice.

Ian, which slammed into Florida's coastline on Wednesday, could cause a 500-year flooding event, the state's governor said on Thursday.

As Ian swept northwards, some of the thousands of live webcams that usually show the daily goings-on in towns and cities brought the unfolding chaos to an online audience.

Some cameras cut out when the severity of the hurricane, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday morning, became too much. At least one person has been killed.

“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis said.

“The amount of water that’s been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event.”

Cassandra Woodson, a home maker from Atlanta, Georgia, shared a Google Map resource showing more than 2,800 livestreaming webcams, a number of which showed the unfolding danger.

“I started the map because I would watch live storm coverage during severe weather outbreaks and I was just curious about what it looked like in those places in real-time,” Ms Woodson, 32, told The National.

After starting in March, she shared the map on social media site Reddit, and received a good reception, so has continued adding public cameras she finds.

“I’m still to this day adding more cameras. Today, I’ve added 15 cameras in the Savannah and Charleston area because they are expecting Hurricane Ian to make a second landfall around there,” she said.

Ft Myers, Florida webcam

Fortt Myers was hit worst of all by the hurricane. Authorities say they are struggling to reach stranded people amid thousands of 911 calls. Many roads and bridges in the area are impassable due to flooding.

Emergency crews cut through fallen trees to unblock roads, but some people have been unable to even call for help due to electric and phone lines being down.

Officials said 23 people are missing after a boat carrying migrants capsized and sank off the coast of Stock Island, Florida.

Ms Woodson continued to post footage captured from the various webcams on her map to Twitter. One of those videos attracted more than one million views.

“With Hurricane Ian, the view that some of these live cameras had were just incredible and very unique,” she said.

“No storm chaser or news folks could get these shots themselves and so it just lent to getting some very intense video without being in harm's way.”

City of Sanibel webcam

A chunk of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people normally

live. It was unknown how many had heeded orders to evacuate, but Charlotte County emergency management director, Patrick Fuller, expressed cautious optimism that worst-case scenarios might not have been realised.

The island's webcams captured the streets filling with water over a 30-minute period. Many are still running as the storm batters the area.

South of Sanibel Island, the historic beachfront pier in Naples was destroyed, with even the pilings underneath torn out, as towering waves crashed over the structure.

“Right now, there is no pier,” said Penny Taylor, a Collier County commissioner.

I-75 motorway webcam

Motorways also bore the brunt of the storm. A webcam on the I-75 captured winds buffeting the road.

Ian struck Florida as a monstrous Category 4 storm, with 241 kilometre an hour winds — the joint fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the US.

St Augustine webcam

Ms Woodson says she believes the cameras democratise viewing on big events, which is why she made her Google Map resource.

“I enjoy seeing things through the lens of a live camera without anything else attached and I believe others are probably the same way,” she said.

“So, if it’s weather, natural disasters or anything else for that matter, it’s nice to see these things live as they are happening, within the comfort of your own home.

“I want anyone who has an interest in seeing weather as it is happening to be able to do so.”

Updated: September 30, 2022, 11:54 AM
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