Firefighter rescues girl from waist-deep Ian floods: ‘Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life’

St Augustine, Florida, experienced heavy flooding as the hurricane reached Florida’s Atlantic side

Ethan Freedman
Climate Reporter, New York
Tuesday 04 October 2022 19:36 BST
Firefighter rescues girl from Hurricane Ian floods
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As Hurricane Ian hit Florida, the storm moved from the southwest to northeast corners of the state, bringing severe weather and dangerous conditions with it.

In St Augustine, a small city south of Jacksonville, storm surge and rain caused floodwaters to rise, leaving residents stranded.

One firefighter recalled going on rescues to get people out of harm’s way, including rescuing a girl from a barrier island in the city.

“She’ll have a little piece of my heart forever," Hardus Oberholzer, the firefighter, told First Coast News.

Mr Oberholzer told the network that he doesn’t remember how many rescues he did, but that it was at least 10 to 15.

The girl’s family called for rescue as the floodwaters reached inches from their home, the firefighter told First Coast News. Mr Oberholzer walked through “waist-deep” waters to reach them amid the rain and floods.

Another firefighter took a picture of him rescuing the girl as they answered calls last Thursday, while Hurricane Ian was still battering the state. He says that she was about the same age as his youngest son.

“Something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I hope they do too,” Mr Oberholzer told First Coast News.

Thousands of people needed to be rescued across Florida last week as Hurricane Ian bore down. Many people ended up with water in their homes as the hurricane’s winds pushed the ocean onto land and massive amounts of rainfall filled up low-lying areas.

At least 100 people were killed, mostly in southwest Florida counties like Lee and Charlotte, which got a direct hit. Officials are still tallying the victims as rescue teams search destroyed neighbourhoods.

Ian was one of the strongest storms in Florida’s history, coming ashore as a near-Category 5 major hurricane. And as the climate crisis grows, these kinds of storms — and the danger they pose to residents from flooding, wind damage and storm surge — will grow with it.

Warmer waters can supercharge a hurricane, helping it grow from a small tropical storm into a massive and destructive cyclone. Hurricane Ian encountered very warm waters in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, which helped it power up rapidly before crashing onto land.

With further warming, these kinds of conditions will only become more common. Already, the planet has warmed about 1.1-1.2 degrees Celsius since the start of the 20th century.

By the end of this century, the world is on track to reach 2.7C of warming, according to the Climate Action Tracker, an independent analysis of global climate policy.

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