Hurricane Ian is shaping to be one of the deadliest storms in Florida's history as authorities confirm 72 deaths thus far, with the final number potentially reaching into the hundreds, The Washington Post reported.
County sheriffs have reported far more deaths than the official count, with the total currently reaching at least 103. The reported death toll already puts Ian above 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which killed 65 individuals.
The last time Florida saw such a tragic loss of life from a hurricane was 1935's Labor Day hurricane, a Category 5 storm that killed 408 people, according to the National Hurricane Center.
"I don't want to scare people, but they need to understand: The leading cause of death is going to be drowning," former Federal Emergency Management Agency head Craig Fugate stated. "Storm surge doesn't sound inherently deadly unless you understand it."
Although Gov. Ron DeSantis has indicated that only direct deaths from the storm will count, the Florida Medical Examiners Commission includes a variety of factors when deciding whether to catalog a storm death.
"We include motor vehicle accidents if someone is trying to evacuate and they hydroplane," FMEC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger told the Post. "If someone had a heart attack when medical services were down ... if there was any suspicion it was related to a hurricane, that's a storm death."
According to the Fort Myers News-Press, most who passed due to complications caused by Ian were located in Lee County, all between 51 and 95 years old. Meanwhile, Collier County also saw substantial losses of life.
Three Collier residents between the ages of 60 and 70 were reported as drowning in the storm. Another was pronounced dead after falling while attempting to flee the devastating wreckage.
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