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- Similar to all hurricanes that have come before, Hurricane Ian was real, and was not part of a government plan to harm Floridians.
Floridians have started the process of recovery after Hurricane Ian wrecked large swaths of the state. But some social media users are starting a different process — taking up a conspiracy theory that the Category 4 hurricane was staged.
An Instagram user claimed in a Sept. 29 post that people had been "tricked" into moving to Florida during the pandemic because of its anti-COVID-19 mandate ideology, and then fallen victim to a storm that had been government-engineered. It was "all just a set up," the post said.
"The ‘storm of the century’ as it is being called is unfortunately another one of many examples of how the government engineers weather to completely destroy places and as always they will use predictive programming to show you they're going to do it in advance," the user wrote.
We saw the narrative being shared elsewhere, too.
"They created that hurricane that hit Florida!!" one Facebook post said. Former GOP candidates DeAnna Lorraine and Lauren Witzke suggested in a video that the storm was engineered specifically to target more conservative areas of Florida.
These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Like all hurricanes, Hurricane Ian was created by natural environmental causes.
Hurricanes take form over open air and warm ocean water. "When humid air is flowing upward at a zone of low pressure over warm ocean water, the water is released from the air," the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research explains on its website. "As it rises, the air in a hurricane rotates."
It first forms as a "tropical disturbance," then a tropical depression, into a tropical storm and then, if it continues to grow past wind speeds of 74 miles per hour, a hurricane. The longer the storm stays over warm water, the bigger it grows.
Hurricanes usually peak between June 30 and Nov. 1, known as hurricane season. It’s not just the winds of a hurricane that cause damage when the storm makes landfall — National Geographic explains that they also cause dangerous storm surge.
"Storm surge is caused when winds from an approaching hurricane push water towards the shoreline up to 20 feet above sea level and can extend 100 miles," National Geographic said in a video. "Ninety percent of all hurricane deaths are the result of storm surge."
The notion that this hurricane — or any hurricane — was engineered by humans as some sort of political punishment appears to be spreading among adherents of QAnon, a baseless conspiracy theory that promotes the idea that the world is run by a cabal of pedophiles that include high-profile Democrats and celebrities and that former President Donald Trump is working with military leaders to quash it.
Hurricanes are natural disasters, not man-controlled. This claim is Pants on Fire!
Instagram post, Sept. 29, 2022
Facebook post, Sept. 28, 2022
UCAR Center for Science Education, How Hurricanes Form, accessed Sept. 30, 2022
YouTube, Hurricanes 101 | National Geographic, Sept. 10, 2018
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