Tuesday, November 29

This Florida woman lived to share her ‘biggest mistake’

Kimberly Lenehan Payano evacuated her North Fort Myers home during Hurricane Irma five years ago under dire warnings of storm surge and winds, then returned to an untouched house.

She decided not to leave for Hurricane Ian.

“It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. Big, big mistake,” Payano said this week.

Many of her neighbors stayed too, some not even boarding up windows. She still doesn’t know how they fared. If not for a couple of men with a small boat, she and her 12-year-old son could have been among dozens who died.

The rising death toll in Floridanow at 71, is confirmation many did not evacuate.

Including four deaths in North Carolina, Ian ranks among the continental United States’ top 30 deadliest storms. It’s also the 11th storm in the last 22 years to claim more than 50 lives on the mainland.

With warmer ocean temperatures driving increasing rainfall and other climate-related changes forecast to occur, researchers predict bigger and even deadlier disasters.

“The risk posed by these storms is only going to increase … because of sea level rise and increasing population density,” said Amber Silver, a disaster researcher and assistant professor at the University of Albany in New York. “When you have more and more people in vulnerable regions becoming increasingly vulnerable due to global climate change and sea level rise, we’re going to see some of these shocking events with large death tolls and large economic losses.”

THERE ARE ‘NO EASY FIXES’ IN FLORIDA:But could Hurricane Ian’s havoc bring a call for better planning?

WATCH:Inside the search for Hurricane Ian’s survivors

The Ian-related deaths illustrate how the impacts of a disaster aren’t just driven by a hurricane’s strength, said Stephen Strader, associate professor at Villanova University. They’re influenced by how vulnerable people are and the choices they make.

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