Ian was a category 4.5 hurricane with a storm surge that washed over our community and much of the western coast line of Florida up to Clearwater. The worst hit community was 25 miles north of us called Fort Myers Beach. Much of that community is gone. In our county of Lee more than 50 people died. The storm demolished thousands of homes and 45000 automobiles. It devastated the lives of thousands of people who are now dependent on the government for temporary housing, food and water. Just now electricity is returning and damaged bridges and highways are in repair. Millions of tonnes of trash piles the streets and dumps with the remnants of the storms damages. The news is filled with pictures and stories of the experiences of the traumatized communities and people.
I bicycled out to see more of my favorite observation sites and made some photos of these places for comparison to their condition prior to the storm. Much of the plant life is damaged, missing or dead. The winds uprooted trees and broke branches The storm surge did much more. The direct force of the water uprooted plants and swept away the wildlife. The after effects of seawater compounded the result of the surge spreading toxic levels of salt and bacterial contamination. It is difficult to survey the animal life because or the tangled deadfall of trees. The plant life is easier to assess.
The two photos above are from a location in a swamp area photographed 4 months prior to and 10 days after the storm. As seen the photos, the plants that best survived were the monocotyledons and those with the ability to bend with the wind. Hence the palm trees are managing ok. The dicotyledons with deciduous leaves and thick stiff branches have suffered the most.
The butterfly garden showed below will need to be replanted.
What is wrong with sea water?
Unlike mangroves, plants that are not specially adapted to sea water may die from dehydration when flooded by storm surge. The salt introduced into the difusion driven circulatory system of plants causes water from the cells be pulled out of the cells because of a process called osmosis. When there is a semipermeable barrier separating salt water from fresh water the dynamics of the condition promotes a balance of both sides. The semi permeable cell wall will not let salt in but water can pass freely through in both directions. Therefore water in the cell is depleted in an effort to dilute the salty water. The imbalance is so great that cellular water is exhausted and the plant dies from dehydration. Additionally this introduces plant stress which inhibits photosynthesis and protein synthesis. No synthesis and no water = no growth.
Some places had 4 to 9 feet of water in their living g rooms. If the water had risen two more inches we would have had water in the house. We are thankful that we did not experience the extent of damage shown above.
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#Osmosis #saltwater #hurricane #Ian #storm surge #semipermeable