A revived Hurricane Ian threatened coastal South Carolina and the historic city of Charleston with severe flooding Friday after the deadly storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped thousands in their homes.
With South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, many left Charleston for higher ground and store owners used sandbags to ward off high water levels in an area prone to inundation.
In Charleston on Friday, powerful wind gusts bent tree branches and sent sprays of steadily falling rain sideways. Streets in the 350-year-old city were largely empty, an ordinarily packed morning commute silenced by the advancing storm.
With winds holding at 140 km/h, the National Hurricane Center’s update at 11 a.m. ET placed Ian about 95 kilometres southeast of Charleston.
Ian left a broad swath of destruction after it came ashore Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast as one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. The storm flooded areas on both of Florida’s coasts, tore homes from their slabs, demolished beachfront businesses and left more than two million people without power.
At least seven people were confirmed dead in the state — a number that was likely to increase as officials confirm more deaths and continue searching for people.
In Charleston, S.C., on Friday, powerful wind gusts bent tree branches and sent sprays of steadily falling rain sideways. Streets in the 350-year-old city were largely empty, an ordinarily packed morning commute silenced by the advancing storm.
In Florida, rescue crews piloted boats and waded through streets Thursday to save thousands of people trapped amid flooded homes and buildings shattered by Hurricane Ian.
9/30 11am EDT: Hurricane <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ian?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Ian</a> is accelerating towards the coast of the Carolinas. The danger of life-threatening storm surge w/in the Storm Surge Warning areas will be arriving soon. Continue to check <a href=”https://t.co/0BMJEA5Wz0″>https://t.co/0BMJEA5Wz0</a> for updates! <a href=”https://t.co/aJqAQ90d5G”>pic.twitter.com/aJqAQ90d5G</a>
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said rescue crews have gone door-to-door to more than 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.
“There’s really been a Herculean effort,” he said Friday during a news conference in Tallahassee.
Devastation near Fort Myers
Those killed in Florida included a 67-year-old man who was waiting to be rescued and fell into rising water inside his New Smyrna Beach home late Thursday, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said. Patrol vehicles had been unable to reach him because roads were flooded.
In the Fort Myers area, businesses near the beach were completely razed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks floated at odd angles beside damaged boats. Fires smoldered on lots where houses once stood.
WATCH | An aerial view of Ian’s destructive path:
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived in there,” William Goodison said amid the wreckage of a mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach where he’d lived for 11 years. Goodison said he was alive only because he rode out the storm at his son’s house inland.
The hurricane tore through the park of about 60 homes, leaving many destroyed or mangled beyond repair, including Goodison’s single-wide home. Wading through waist-deep water, Goodison and his son wheeled two trash cans containing what little he could salvage — a portable air conditioner, some tools and a baseball bat.
The road into Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. Cars were abandoned in the road, having stalled when the storm surge flooded their engines.
Emergency crews sawed through toppled trees to reach stranded people. Many in the hardest-hit areas were unable to call for help because of electrical and cellular outages.
A chunk of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people live.
Disruption, displacement for care homes
Thousands of residents of long-term care facilities in Florida remained displaced by Ian, according to a spokesperson from the Florida Health Care Association.
Kristen Knapp said about 47 nursing homes and 115 assisted living facilities have been evacuated as of Friday, with around 8,000 residents among them.
While structural damage and flooding were reported at facilities across the storm’s path, Knapp said there have been no reports yet of serious injuries or deaths among those homes’ residents.
Steve Bahmer of Leading Age Florida, which represents non-profit long-term care facilities, offered a similar assessment, with reports of minor damage, broken windows, downed trees and flooding. He said one facility was hit by a tornado but residents have been able to remain there.
Ian expected to be among costliest storms
Insurers are bracing for a hit of between $28 billion and $47 billion US from Hurricane Ian, in what could be the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to U.S. property data and analytics company CoreLogic.
“This is the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew made landfall in 1992 and a record number of homes and
properties were lost,” said Tom Larsen, associate vice-president, hazard & risk management, CoreLogic.
Credit rating agency Fitch on Thursday said insured losses could range from $25 billion to $40 billion for Florida, which could increase depending on the effect of the storm in the Carolinas.
The storm was on track to later hit North Carolina, forecasters said. Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for torrents of rain, high winds and potential power outages.
The power outage caused by Hurricane Ian has prompted protests in the streets of Cuba’s capital on Thursday night as several hundred people demanded restoration of electricity more than two days after a blackout hit the entire island.
An Associated Press journalist saw about 400 people gathered in at least two spots in the Cerro neighbourhood in Havana shouting, “We want light, we want light,” and banging pots and pans.
It appeared to be the first public display over the electricity problems that spread from western Cuba, where Ian hit, to the entire island, leaving the country’s 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.
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