Hurricane Ian moves toward South Carolina after leaving multiple dead and millions without power in Florida
As Florida grapples with devastating damage from Hurricane Ian in what officials say is likely the largest natural disaster in the state’s history, South Carolinians brace for the cyclone’s expected arrival at noon Friday.
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Hurricane Ian has strengthened again in the Atlantic after leaving at least 19 dead in Florida and millions without power, with winds of almost 136 kilometers per hour on its way to the coast of South Carolina, and it is expected it makes landfall just west of Myrtle Beach. A hurricane warning has been issued from the Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina border to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
The cyclone’s destructive passage through Florida triggered extraordinary flooding and storm surge, prompting the largest emergency response in state history, state fire chief Jimmy Patronis told CNN Thursday. Hundreds of rescues have been carried out by land, air and sea, with residents trapped in their homes or stranded on rooftops. Some homes in Fort Myers Beach have been reduced to nothing more than concrete slabs, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, calling the damage in parts of the state “indescribable.”
The hurricane hit the southwestern coast of Florida on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds reaching 140 mph, causing extensive damage to homes, vehicles and businesses. And officials warn it will be a long road to recovery.
This is what you should know:
Dozens of Reported Deaths: At least 19 storm-related deaths have been reported in Florida so far, though that number is likely to grow. Most of those deaths are in hard-hit Lee and Charlotte counties. President Joe Biden said Thursday that Ian could be “the deadliest hurricane in Florida history.”
More than 2.2 million without power: Millions of people in Florida who were in Ian’s path were still in the dark as of early Friday morning, according to PowerOutage.us. Most of the counties with the highest percentage of residents without power are in the Southwest, including Lee, Charlotte, Hardee and Sarasota. Thirteen counties report that more than 50% of tracked customers do not have electricity.
Historic flooding in some areas: Record flooding was reported in central and northern Florida, including at least three rivers that reached all-time flood records. Orlando authorities warned residents of dangerous flooding. Some of the stagnant water was electrified, they said.
Hundreds of rescues and thousands of evacuations: There have been more than 700 rescues statewide so far, the governor said Thursday, with thousands of evacuees reported. In Lee County, a hospital system had to evacuate more than 1,000 patients after its water supply was cut off, while other widespread evacuations were reported at prisons and nursing homes.
Completely Cut Off Coastal Islands: Sanibel and Captiva Islands in southwest Florida are completely cut off from the mainland after parts of a key waterway were ripped up.
At least two people have died on Sanibel and the roadway may need to be completely rebuilt, local officials said. Chip Farrar, a resident of the small island of Matlacha, told CNN that parts of the essential road to reach the mainland bridge have collapsed and a second nearby bridge has also collapsed.
As Hurricane Ian moves away from Florida, the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia have declared states of emergency.
In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster implored residents not to underestimate the storm’s danger and urged them to closely follow storm warnings to prepare for Friday’s impact. It is expected to make landfall at high tide, which could drastically worsen flooding in low-lying areas, according to CNN Meteorologist Taylor Ward.
When it’s all over, Ian’s storm system will likely have left lasting changes in its wake.
Coastlines along Georgia and South Carolina may experience significant disruption as powerful waves and storm surges triggered by Ian could inundate coastal sand dunes, according to the US Geological Survey. In addition to inundating communities behind the dunes, the USGS said, the storm can push sand back and deposit it inland, which could “reduce the height of protective sand dunes, alter beach profiles, and leave areas behind the dunes more vulnerable to future storms.