Observations and lessons from hurricane Ian in SW Florida

Hi All, As you have see on TV or maybe experienced, hurricane Ian pummeled SW Florida and then proceeded to keep on the move to other areas.
My house is about 15 miles from where Ian made landfall bringing 155+mph winds, rain and storm surge. Fortunately our house was spared much in the way of damage due to it being a new build and up to the latest building codes.
Since this storm was about 400+ miles wide, it left a huge path of destruction in it’s wake.

A few things to think about for your emergency prep in the way of communication. Here’s what happened. Power goes down. Internet goes out because of power. Cell/mobile service goes down because of power , Internet links and tower destruction. The local repeaters went down because of power and wind damage. Back up power fails because of 190 mph wind gusts.
Battery back up systems run down and everything stops.

So, after the storm clears, crews frantically try to get enough repairs made to get the repeaters up.
One made it, running on a generator. Echolink is impossible because of Internet infrastructure damage. Generators need fuel. Power is down so fuel can’t be pumped. You can’t drive down the street to get more because power is out for a hundred miles and the road is full of downed trees and power lines.
At this point, your HT isn’t going to get out very far.

This is not a hypothetical situation. This is what happened.

In SW Florida, the water and sewer systems rely on electricity so those are down too.

So, what to do. No outside antennas survived. Attic antennas did for those that kept their roofs.
A push up pole for an antenna is a great item to have in order to get some distance out of that HT or other 2m/70cm radio. Simplex communication was very important in getting emergency services to areas that needed them.

Power, generators are great but do require fuel and to be refueled and refueled.
Portable solar panels and a solar generator does a very good job of keeping batteries recharged and minor systems operating for extended periods. The larger ones can even run the fridge too. FYI, solar panels on the roof tend to go flying in winds like we had.

We where kind of at the end of the line for power restoration in our area. 10 days. Once power was restored, life returned to somewhat normal conditions for us. They’ve even lifted the boil water notice.

I just thought I would share a little insight with anyone that is thinking of back up systems and prepping for whatever may come your way. Any and all infrastructure will fail at some time. Hopefully not as complete and wide spread as this time but it does happen.

As hurricanes are nothing new to me, I’ve collected things that I needed over the years. The outages where a bit extended this time due to the size and power of the storm but I’ve also had these length of power outages due to winter storms in the Appalachian mountains. It can happen anywhere.

WO4KAC Kelly, Port Charlotte, Florida


Good insights, thanks for sharing. I am always looking for real-world prepping scenarios. Yours is difficult to have all possible issues mitigated, but solar seems to be the way to go. Do you have a portable “solar generator” and panels? My house is N. CA has a whole house generator on propane, but sooner or later I will run out of fuel. I like the solar backup, but is costly. I don’t have to worry to much about hurricanes/tornados in my area, mostly earthquakes and social unrest. Someday I would like a solar system with battery backup, but a propane generator is enough for now. I’m also thinking a base station would be important to have in addition to my HTs.

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I am in Venice and we had some of the highest winds here from the eye wall. I am only 2500 feet from the Gulf. GMRS was vital for us as it was the only communications that were working. My base antenna survived as I had left it up but brought it down from its normal 20ft to only 10ft but was secured to the house/ground pretty well. I suppose I could have taken it down completely then put it back up afterwards. Local comms were working but because the Sarasota repeater was ok, we could talk all over the area. Three other repeaters in my town and to the south did go down. I would say if you want to plan for the worst the best bet would be to have an HT with a portable base antenna you could put up quickly and either a large battery to power it or have multiple batteries for your HT on hand. I know of communities that were handing our FRS radios to residents so they could all talk to eachother. This would definately be a good idea for families to all have a readio and I did this myself giving my daughter a radio (and her boyfriend ;-).

And by the way, my base was up right after the storm as I was powering it from a generator. Luckily our Frontier fiber never went down either so once I connected that to the generator, we had internet access(and phones using wifi) at least in the house.


This is the reality of, you can’t rely on the services you can’t control. Internet, cellular, power (and other utilities). During the big Texas Snowmagedon storm of 2021, I managed to not loose power or have any real issues due to having a gas furnace, gas fireplace and living 1000 feet form the local public safety building (complete with secondary dispatch capabilities).

The point is, most services are best effort. The only real exception is public safety communications (I could spend a good day discussing redundancy in modern P25 systems and how it’s deployed but to understand what I was talking about you’d have to have a background in TCP/IP, microwave radio technologies, circuit switching and DSx) and even they lose sites but they do tend to do better than anyone else. I’ve also watched as a lot of amateur systems (which for all intents and purposes includes amateur radio and GMRS) have been built with 100% reliance on the internet, zero backup power considerations, etc. I choose often to keep my mouth shut…for reasons not wanting to be the broken record youngin’ in the room.

That being said, it’s worthwhile to take some time to assess the disruptions experienced for the next time. For those unaware, the FCC actually publishes a good amount of that information (at least as far as communications are concerned) to their website and is worth taking a look at. That being said, I’ve always been a fan of tactically deployable repeaters and solutions for charging portable radios in an off-grid manner. I’m actually currently building a new repeater in a can using mostly spare components I had laying around so we will see how it turns out (though my use is mainly for the deer lease) but the design is loosely based off a setup I spec’d that ended up being deployed in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

One of my favorite natural disaster analogies…when a Hurricane puts Galveston Island underwater…how to we prepare for the next “perfect” storm that may never come? We build a seawall and backfill the entire island to raise the average terrain level above sea level. You know what…the island hasn’t been underwater since 1900 and has survived no less than six of those seemingly “perfect” storms. Sometimes preparing for the unlikely, is what you need to do.


I have now acquired a Bluetti solar generator. It seems to work very well. No fuel and quiet, except when charging. I’ve been testing it on various items and have been very impressed by the recharge rate with a solar panel. As long as the sun is shining, I can keep the basic things running indefinitely now. Of course, they have systems that you can scale up but they aren’t portable at that point. And, they are pricey.
It’s nice to have a generator for heavier loads and a battery system to run at night that’s quiet and doesn’t attract the looters. Only a small problem with that in the neighborhood since it’s a well defined second amendment area. :slight_smile:

What brand of GMRS antenna do you have? Sounds like a durable one. I’m going to suggest GMRS for our neighborhood, (South Gulf Cove). The area was without cell coverage for several days. I have Midland mobile and several Motorola MS350’s. I don’t have an outside antenna though so that’s next on the list.

I have a Comet GP-6NC antenna. A great antenna. Made really well and the SWR is completely flat on it.

Looks like the Tram 1480 that I have but the specs are wider for the GMRS spectrum. I hope to expand my GMRS activity soon. Hope you’re doing well now. Everything is still a mess around us but we’re back to normal.

I had the Tram 1480 briefly for use with GMRS. I was sorry I bought it for that. The SWR was high and the radio would heat up. I didn’t want to take the chance of damaging my radio so I took it back and got a proper GMRS antenna.