)
Advertisement
  1. Local Weather
  2. /
  3. Hurricane

Stunning aerial photos show Hurricane Ian’s path along Florida’s west coast

Robert Young, a professor at Western Carolina University, took about 500 photos from a Cessna flying over of the southwest coast of Florida.
Businesses, hotels and homes are seen destroyed along Fort Myers Beach in photos taken from a Cessna on Tuesday.
Businesses, hotels and homes are seen destroyed along Fort Myers Beach in photos taken from a Cessna on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Published Oct. 7|Updated Oct. 7

Robert Young had his arms outside the window of a Cessna that was about 500 feet in the air on Tuesday afternoon. He was shooting photos of Hurricane Ian’s wrath along the west coast of Florida.

Young, a professor at Western Carolina University, said he would shoot as many photos as he could until his arms tired out. In all, he shot more than 500 photos of areas hit worst by Hurricane Ian.

The photos include images of Fort Myers Beach, where a pile of rubble lay crumbled where the beach’s pavilion once was; of Sanibel, where the bridge — the main artery to the island — plunged into sand and water; and of Captiva, where Young shot photos of homes with their roofs peeled back.

Hurricane Ian made landfall at 3:05 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Cayo Costa, a small island in Lee County. At nearly Category 5 strength, Ian was one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in Florida, and it caused vast destruction along the west coast. In the days since, officials have said Hurricane Ian killed at least 100 people in Florida, making it one of the deadliest storms in the state’s history.

Young has been taking photos of the aftermaths of storms for about 30 years, in part for research and in part to allow the public to see the results of one of nature’s most powerful weather events. He provided the Tampa Bay Times his photos from his few hours in the air.

Sun Caper Condominium, left, is seen with other homes along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday.
Sun Caper Condominium, left, is seen with other homes along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Condos and homes are seen along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday.
Condos and homes are seen along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Homes are seen destroyed in the Bonita Beach area on Tuesday.
Homes are seen destroyed in the Bonita Beach area on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
The Naples Pier is seen partly destroyed.
The Naples Pier is seen partly destroyed. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Businesses, hotels and homes are seen destroyed along Fort Myers Beach.
Businesses, hotels and homes are seen destroyed along Fort Myers Beach. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]

While he was flying along the coast, it became apparent some of the areas worst hit by Hurricane Ian were on Fort Myers Beach. The normally vibrant beach town had entire plots of land where a home or business once was filled only with debris. Windows in condos were blown out along the shore. And in the sand, rushing water left imprints after it flowed back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Buildings are seen along Fort Myers Beach.
Buildings are seen along Fort Myers Beach. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Pelican Bay is seen with trees, naked from wind and surf.
Pelican Bay is seen with trees, naked from wind and surf. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]

In less developed areas of the southwest coast of Florida, like a section of Pelican Bay, the damage from Hurricane Ian is less noticeable, except for a few downed trees. You can barely tell anything happened, Young said on the flight.

The small islands along the coast having been shrinking, growing and changing for thousands of years. The islands will last, Young said, but the homes and other buildings along the coast will not.

Church of the Ascension, top, left, is seen along with homes on Fort Myers Beach.
Church of the Ascension, top, left, is seen along with homes on Fort Myers Beach. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Murky, sandy water is seen along Big Hickory Island.
Murky, sandy water is seen along Big Hickory Island. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
The Signal Inn Pet-Friendly Island Condos, top right, are seen along with other homes as murky water flows into the Gulf of Mexico along Sanibel.
The Signal Inn Pet-Friendly Island Condos, top right, are seen along with other homes as murky water flows into the Gulf of Mexico along Sanibel. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]

Two-toned water in the Gulf of Mexico is a consequence of Hurricane Ian and is caused by stormwater runoff from homes and businesses, according to Young. After Ian, debris and pollution flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, causing nutrient-rich water. From 500 feet in the air with the plane’s window open, there was a distinct rotten smell coming from the water. The runoff can make swimming or fishing in those nutrient-rich areas dangerous.

A variation in water is seen along the coast of Sanibel.
A variation in water is seen along the coast of Sanibel. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Homes are seen along Sanibel on Tuesday.
Homes are seen along Sanibel on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Pelican Bay is seen from the air on Tuesday.
Pelican Bay is seen from the air on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Sand and debris are seen in the water along Captiva.
Sand and debris are seen in the water along Captiva. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
The Sanibel Lighthouse is seen along with the causeway to Sanibel.
The Sanibel Lighthouse is seen along with the causeway to Sanibel. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]

The bridge to Sanibel Island was destroyed by Hurricane Ian, cutting off residents who may have stayed during the storm and delaying first responders trying to reach them. The bridge is collapsed in multiple areas where sand and water swallowed the concrete structure.

Despite Herculean winds and storm surge, the Sanibel lighthouse still stands, now the same color as the wind-torn vegetation behind it.

Hurricane Ian moved across Florida after making landfall on the west coast and caused massive flooding in the middle of the state, leaving parts of Orlando underwater. The storm then emerged on the east coast, where it regained strength before making its way to the Carolinas.

While flying over Florida’s coast, pilot Matthew Goeders, 23, asked how Young’s home state of North Carolina fared. Five people died there from effects of Hurricane Ian, Young replied. Young told Goeders he lives in the mountainous region of the state.

”I know too much about hurricanes to live near the coast,” Young said.

Homes are seen along Fort Myers Beach.
Homes are seen along Fort Myers Beach. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Homes are seen along Captiva on Tuesday.
Homes are seen along Captiva on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Pelican Bay is seen from the air on Tuesday.
Pelican Bay is seen from the air on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Condos and the remnants of Bonita Beach Village mobile home park are seen on Tuesday.
Condos and the remnants of Bonita Beach Village mobile home park are seen on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Home are seen along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday.
Home are seen along Fort Myers Beach on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]
Sea grass is seen in the water just off the coast of Captiva on Tuesday.
Sea grass is seen in the water just off the coast of Captiva on Tuesday. [ Dr. Robert Young/Western Carolina University ]

You can see more of Young’s images here.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage

HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.

FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.

THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.

POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.

WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?

MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge