Hurricane Ian has strengthened into a major Category 4 storm as Florida and Cuba brace for strong winds and possible floods. Michigan State University experts can comment on the impact of these storms.
Jeff Andresen is a professor in MSU’s Department of Geography and the State Climatologist for Michigan. He has professional experience with the National Weather Service and with the USDA's World Agricultural Outlook Board in Washington, D.C., where he was involved in international crop/weather impact assessment and production estimation. He currently serves as director of Michigan’s Enviro-weather information system, which supports agricultural pest and production management related decision-making across the state, and as an extension specialist maintaining an active outreach program including dissemination of weather and climate data and information to the general public and continuing education activities.
“Depending on the actual path, impacts from Ian could be severe, especially if the storm makes landfall in the Tampa and St. Pete area. The shoreline in this part of the Gulf is relatively more vulnerable to storm surge due to the gradual incline of the seafloor there,” said Andersen.
“In addition, almost 50% of the population of the Tampa and St. Pete metro area lives 10 feet or less above sea level. The current forecast projection suggests a possible storm surge of 5-10 feet in west central Florida. The climatic frequency of hurricanes in this part of Florda is less than other parts of the state due to its location on the western side of the Peninsula and the general southeast to northwest motion of most hurricanes moving from the Northwest Atlantic Basin. The last direct hit from a hurricane in the area was 1946 and the last direct hit from a major hurricane was more than 100 years ago in 1921. There has been major development and significant population increases since, so the vulnerability of the area is high.”
Jason Miller is an associate professor of supply chain management at MSU. His primary research stream examines issues in the for-hire truck transportation industry including safety, productivity, pricing dynamics, driver turnover and employment.
“The price of shipping via truck into the impacted areas of Florida will tend to increase much more than outbound transportation prices since impacted areas see a temporary decrease in outbound freight activity. Unlike with Harvey in 2017 that hit Texas and Louisiana, Florida isn't a large manufacturing state, so we shouldn't expect to see the same degree of disruption to sectors such as chemical manufacturing that we saw in 2017.”
Seven Mattes is an assistant professor in MSU’s Center of Integrative Studies working at the intersection of Human-Animal Studies and Disasters and Natural Hazards.
“As Floridians prepare for landfall, a State of Emergency has been declared and countless evacuate for less treacherous grounds. Numerous nonprofits and organizations work to strengthen resiliency for the humans and non-human animals in Ian's path,” she said. “Stocking shelters for humans, organizing precautions for agricultural animals and — in accordance with the PETS Act — ensuring companion animals can evacuate safely with their people, if necessary.
It is in these moments that we fully experience how disasters highlight key aspects of our society: social inequalities, regarding who can leave and/or prepare for natural hazards and the infrastructural vulnerabilities often marking the boundaries therein; the impacts of climate change on the exacerbated intensification of hurricanes; and the stark reminder that nature is a powerful force that deserves the utmost respect.”