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Ian was expected to make landfall Friday afternoon off the coast of South Carolina after strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane Thursday night. It will then move inland and into North Carolina on Saturday .
Meanwhile, Florida officials were assessing damage and continuing search and rescue efforts after Ian made landfall in the Fort Myers area Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. There were 21 deaths, but the director of management of Florida Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie said Friday that only one was confirmed as a result of the storm. Officials were still assessing the cause of the other 20 deaths.
There had been 700,000 rescues as of Friday morning, officials said. Meanwhile, 1.9 million customers were still without power statewide and Lee County was without water after a main break.
“It’s been a truly Herculean effort,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday morning as crews worked to restore power, assess the damage and rescue residents.
Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sent a joint letter to the chairs of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday to secure funding to “provide much-needed assistance to Florida.”
“Hurricane Ian will be remembered and studied as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States,” they wrote. “Communities in Florida have been completely destroyed and lives changed forever.”
►In South Carolina, President Joe Biden declared an emergency and ordered federal assistance, according to the White House.
►Hurricane Ian’s losses so far range from $25 billion to $40 billion, credit agency Fitch Ratings reported Thursday.
►At least nine people were rescued after a boat carrying more than 20 migrants sank in stormy weather near the Florida Keys. Friday, the Coast Guard said one person’s body was recovered near Ocean Edge Marina.
►Tampa and Orlando airports were expected to reopen Friday, while Fort Myers Airport in southwest Florida remained closed Friday. More than 1,660 flights were canceled Friday because of the storm, according to FlightAware.
►On Friday, most of the East Coast was covered by clouds that spread outward from Hurricane Ian, AccuWeather said. Clouds are expected to thicken as Ian moves across the mid-Atlantic.
The death toll is likely to rise in Florida
The destruction left by Ian has made it difficult to get an accurate assessment of the loss of life, but there are already reports of 21 deaths, officials said Friday morning.
State officials said only one of those deaths, in Polk County, was confirmed as a result of the storm, and authorities were still assessing the cause of the other 20 deaths: 12 were in Charlotte County and eight in Collier County.
But local officials in these areas also reported deaths:
- Sanibel Island Officials reported two deaths Thursday.
- In Lee County, which includes the island of Cayo Costa near Cape Coral where the storm made landfall, at least five deaths were confirmed, Sheriff Carmine Marceno told CNN.
- In DeltonaAbout 30 miles northeast of Orlando, a 72-year-old man died after falling into a canal while using a hose to drain his swimming pool in heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said .
- In Sarasota County, the sheriff’s office reported two hurricane-related deaths after a 94-year-old man and an 80-year-old woman died when their oxygen machines lost power during the storm.
Follower of Hurricane Ian
After moving slowly through Florida, Hurricane Ian gained new strength over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday before wreaking havoc in South Carolina, Georgia and other states along the East Coast. Check here for the latest updates on the strength of the storm and track where it’s headed.
As of 11 a.m. Friday, Ian was about 60 miles east-southeast of Charleston and moving north at 14 mph with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, the hurricane center said.
In Charleston, strong gusts of wind and rain as Ian approached
By Friday morning, heavy rain and tropical storm conditions had already reached the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas, where life-threatening swell and hurricane conditions were expected to develop. Rainfall of up to 8 inches threatened flooding from South Carolina to Virginia, the National Weather Service reported.
Forecasters expected conditions to steadily deteriorate in Charleston Friday morning. Traffic had cleared the streets, silencing the typical bustling morning commute before the storm.
Some areas had already received 2 to 3 inches of rain by 8 a.m., and “some flooding” had begun to inundate downtown Charleston as heavy rain fell amid rising water levels. tide, said Steven Taylor, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service. in Charleston.
Wind gusts were seen along the Charleston County coast between 50 and 60 mph, and the area could see 4 to 7 feet of flooding Friday, Taylor said. “We recently had a wind gust of up to 66 mph on the south end of Folly Beach and the winds continue to increase throughout the area,” Taylor told USA TODAY.
The center of Ian is expected to travel northeast of Charleston by Friday afternoon, and forecasters expect the storm to weaken as it moves into North Carolina.
Island Forecast: A look at Kiawah, Hilton Head and Pawleys
Kiawah Island: Located about 26 miles south of Charleston, the island could see up to 1.5 inches of rain throughout Friday until Ian moves north, NWS Charleston meteorologist Douglas Berry said. Gusts ranged from 35 to 45 mph Friday morning, but he said the risk of flooding would be worse in Charleston and along the coast.
The island’s location on the west side of Ian and an offshore flow, when air moves from land to sea, could reduce Kiawah Island’s tides, leading to potential flooding problems minors until Friday afternoon. There is no current flood warning for the island.
Hilton Head Island: Tropical storm conditions were expected along the island, which is about 97 miles southwest of Charleston. The popular tourist destination could see up to 2 inches of rain on Friday, with hurricane conditions possible. A high surf warning, flood watch, and hurricane and storm surge warnings were in effect Friday morning.
Pawleys Island: Gusts of up to 100 mph could be expected on Pawleys Island, located 73 miles north of Charleston, NWS Wilmington meteorologist Jordan Baker said. The island is under swell and hurricane warnings. “Wind is definitely a big issue this time, and we’re seeing it increase,” Baker told USA TODAY. “This area and could see up to 4 to 7 feet of flooding.”
Fort Myers Beach ‘gone’ after Hurricane Ian damage
Fort Myers Beach took the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s assault on the Florida coast. The Category 4 storm brought winds of 150 miles per hour and a towering storm surge through the center of the city. On Thursday, neighbors began to see what could be salvaged from the wreckage.
“I think mine is going to be a total loss,” Joy McCormack said as she stood across the road from a stretch of mobile homes, townhouses and condos that were knee-deep in floodwaters. “It’s the only home I have and if it’s gone…” She trailed off.
For Mitch Stough and his brother, Fort Myers Beach was their livelihood. Now, it has been totally destroyed. Stough worked at the iconic Lani Kai resort and said the storm surge stripped the first floor of the vacation spot to its structural elements.
“There’s nothing,” Stough said. “Fort Myers Beach is gone.” Read more here.
— Dan Glaun, John Kennedy, Samantha Neely, The News-Press
The voice of Floridians regrets after staying there during the hurricane
Yolande Welch, 95, with a bandaged leg and injured shoulder, sat at the Port Sanibel Marina with a Sanibel firefighter’s hand on her shoulder.
Firefighters and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers had rescued him from Sanibel earlier in the day. Welch heard a loud crash in her living room Wednesday when one of her glass doors shattered and threatened to shatter. He hurt his shoulder while trying to hold on to the door.
“It was hell,” Welch said. “I’ve been through five hurricanes, and this is the worst.”
Fort Lauderdale local Christopher Gyles has been vacationing on Captiva Island with his family since 1991. Many of his 40-something family members fled to Fort Lauderdale, but some, including Gyles, stayed behind . Now, he said it was a bad idea.
Gyles said they saw debris being vacuumed into the bay. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that they were rescued by boat.
Eric and Vera Siefert, longtime residents of Sanibel and Captiva in their 60s, also said staying was a dangerous mistake. Four of the coconut trees on his property were blown down by the strong winds. As the storm surge rose to about 10 feet, water began flooding into her home.
“We’re scared,” Eric said. “We were crawling over the furniture and thought that would be the end of it.”
– Lisa Nellesen Savage, News-Press
Contributing: John Bacon, Thao Nguyen, Jorge Ortiz, Doyle Rice, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press