As Hurricane Ian bore down on Florida in September 2022, old clips of Shepard Smith’s blunt warnings to Floridians about a different storm gained new life online.
“So the weatherman just gonna OD on us like that?” read one tweet showing Smith’s October 6 2016 Fox News broadcast as he described the damage that Hurricane Matthew could potentially unleash after making landfall in Florida:
“See this? Melbourne, Daytona Beach, all the way up to Jacksonville,” Smith said at the time. “This moves 20 miles to the west, and you and everyone you know are dead. All of you. Because you can’t survive it. It’s not possible unless you’re very, very lucky. And your kids die too.”
That tweet has been shared thousands of times since it was published on September 26 2022; a separate tweet posted a day later calling Smith’s warning the “most intense weather broadcast ever” has been shared thousands more:
Smith’s warning gained attention online after its original 2016 airing as well, and it was described as a “doomsday” prediction; a “bizarre” outburst; and “terrifying,” among other things. But Smith has not worked for Fox since October 2019. In September 2020, he began hosting his own show on another cable channel, CNBC.
Hurricane Matthew, which was a Category 4 storm, first made landfall in Cuba and Haiti on October 4 2016. An April 2017 report by the United States National Hurricane Center said that the hurricane caused 546 deaths in Haiti, though some local reports had that figure higher; Matthew also caused a reported 47 deaths in the United States, as well an estimated $10 billion in damages.
As of September 28 2022, the warnings about Ian have been similarly ominous, as footage spread online showing water being sucked out of the Florida coastline as this latest hurricane approached:
As NPR reported:
Spectators and photographers gaped at the suddenly remade coastlines — but the water is expected to return with a vengeance: The latest storm surge estimates predict up to 12-18 feet of water above ground level hitting an area from Englewood south to Bonita Beach, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
“IMPORTANT NOTE: The water WILL come back,” the National Weather Service office in Tampa said via Twitter, as it urged people not to walk out to explore areas where water has receded.
CNN further reported that more than 470,000 Floridians had lost electricity in their residences even before Ian made landfall.
Reporting from Punta Gorda, Florida, CNN correspondent Bill Weir said that Hurricane Ian would test the community’s “climate adaptation plan,” which was adopted to combat the weather havoc wreaked by a warming planet — the first of its kind in the state — after the town was devastated by Hurricane Charlie in 2004.
“It’s hard to build power lines or building codes in a 17-foot storm surge, though,” Weir said. “That’s the crazy variable right now. No one has ever seen that. We don’t know what that looks like, but this is exactly what climate scientists have been warning about for a long time.”
However, researchers have already described Ian as far larger than Charlie.
“Ian’s area of hurricane-force winds is 2.9 times larger, and its area of tropical storm force winds is 2.3 times larger,” said Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher for the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami:
Former NHC Director Dr. Rick Knabb posted a separate graphic showing that the entirety of Charlie’s “hurricane force wind field” — about 17.5 miles — would fit inside Hurricane Ian’s eye.
“This will produce a much wider swath of damaging wind, storm surge, flooding rains,” he wrote.