No matter how much people prepare, though, the “the storm wins the first quarter,” especially when it’s as strong as Ian is expected to be, said Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who guided the Department of Defense through its Hurricane Katrina response.
Forecasters say Ian, which is currently at a Category 4 designation, could soon go up to Category 5.
Any storm over 100 miles an hour can take out a power grid, Honoré said on “NewsNation Live” Wednesday.
“It will take down the cell towers, it will take down the power system,” Honoré said. “When the power goes out, the pumps to pump the water to people’s homes will go out.”
Those who remain behind will be in “survival mode,” he said.
“First responders can’t get in there until the winds die down below hurricane-force winds,” Honoré said. “So it’s going to be a very dynamic situation in the coming hours.”
The state of Florida and the federal government have already pre-staged emergency personnel in anticipation of Ian.
“What they have done has been very good,” Honoré said. “But the storm will overmatch the infrastructure and the first responders.”
Since Hurricane Andrew, Florida has built an infrastructure around protecting its municipalities from such severe weather, Honoré said.
“They’ve got everything better than anybody else in the United States when it comes to preparation,” Honoré said. “But preparation, I’ll remind people, is the easy part.”
What comes next is the tough part — responding to the storm, especially the search-and-rescue efforts, Honoré said.
Mandatory evacuations were set in place by officials to urge residents to leave before the hurricane made landfall. It’s too late to leave safely now, though, and some people did choose to stay.
For those who are still in Florida, Honoré said, it’s important they are prepared to go higher as heavy rains come to the area and water starts to come into buildings.
“Make sure you bring an ax, something to cut through the ceiling,” he said. “The only way to survive is to go up.”
Knowing one’s neighbors will also be crucial as conditions start to get worse.
“Most of the people’s lives (that are) going to be saved in this storm, hear me well, will be neighbors helping neighbors until the first responders can get them,” Honoré said. “It’s going to be ugly, and I just pray that no one loses their lives.”