September 28, 2022, Wednesday: 8:18 AM. I've likely been awake since 5:45 or earlier, unable to tell sleep from wakefulness these days. It's light enough to see outside where, on either side of the complex, thick rain and loud wind are persistent. The lanai screen is soaked, the stream behind us is already high (it rained all night), and a limpkin calmly eats along the shore on our side. We've checked various weather sites, like NOAA and Accuweather, and weren't reassured when learning Ian's landfall will be just northwest of Fort Myers, the highest storm surge likely to the southeast of it.
Today, meteorologists who thought Tampa Bay's water level might rise 3-6 feet now expect Ian to arrive as a Category 4 hurricane and sound disappointed it hasn't upgraded itself to Category 5. They now predict landfall just northwest of Fort Myers and claim Wednesday afternoon winds will reach 155 mph and storm surge a catastrophic 15 to 20 feet above normal tide level.
We keep doing what we regularly do. At the moment I'm typing this and Sue is tutoring online in Milwaukee from our Sarasota bedroom. She might not make it through the day. I just finished my morning coffee and photographed the stream through the lanai behind us without going into it. Yesterday we emptied the lanai except for the cumbersome round, glass-topped dining table and tall glass-shelved bookcase, cramming everything into a back bedroom corner. NOAA's Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map indicates by color coding the height of the flooding: blue is greater than 1 foot above ground, yellow greater than 3 feet, orange greater than 6 feet, red greater than 9 feet. Their image is advisory for five days. Some businesses posted a hopeful return to normal on Friday but others, like Mote Marine Aquarium and ABC Liquors, are taking a wait and see approach before reopening, uncertain how the storm will affect the physical buildings, whether repairs will be needed, whether power will have been restored.
This will be a long day, as tomorrow (and maybe the day after?) will likely be.
10:32 AM: The wind sometimes strengthens and thumps the lanai screen, as if urgently demanding attention. It's hard not to look up as the sound grows louder, hard not to worry whether the screen—and possibly the glass doors and windows that make up the interior lanai wall—will be sufficiently resistant. The trees beyond the stream tremble and shudder and shake all the while, often vigorously. The stream is not yet at flood stage but, as rainfall persists, it's getting closer. Sometimes, often, the wind is loud enough to drown out the sound of Sue's voice guiding her students on the internet. Lights in the condo occasionally flicker or fade slightly, then regain regular brightness. The woman from the corner unit just walked back and forth in front of our condo talking on her phone, the balconies above her keeping all but her feet dry.
12:17 PM: The stream's width and height have increased, spreading across the opposite shore, and the strengthening wind gusts keep generating white wave crests. Fiercer and fiercer. NOAA reports hurricane-force winds approaching the Florida coast near Sanibel Island, close to land near Fort Myers. Barrier islands—Sanibel and Captiva and Pine there, Siesta Key and Lido Key and Longboat Key offshore near us—are very low and slender, with no chance to slow the hurricane's ominous approach.
c. 5:00 PM. Hurricane Ian is a presence all through the day. We have an early supper for a change and continue reading pages from The Ink Black Heart aloud to one another, all the while being reminded by wind and sheets of rain that we're surround by storm. Then the electricity ceases abruptly: lights off, dishwasher off, sudden silence in the condo, only Ian sounding outside. For awhile we keep on reading by battery-powered lantern light, then quietly sit together on the living room sofa in deepening darkness until after 7:00. Before it becomes completely dark, we prepare for bed, then try to read our nighttime books there, Sue's by penlight, mine on Kindle. I give up before she does, somewhere around 9:00, an hour when we usually start reading, and try to rest without sleeping. We have ten hours of darkness to get through before daylight of some kind should return.
I try not to imagine what is happening outside. I am mostly sure we have safely barricaded ourselves in our rented apartment; we are likely far enough inland, likely far enough north of Ian's landfall, our daughter's family likely far enough from the coast, to be secure. Surely when daylight comes and, as forecasters keep predicting, the storm finally abates, we will be able to face the new day with relief.