Dozens are dead from Ian, one of strongest, costliest U.S. storms

Hurricane Ian Targets Carolina Coast in September; 30 of 2022.


Rescuers searched for survivors among the rubble of homes flooded by Hurricane Ian in Florida as authorities in South Carolina began assessing damage from its onslaught there as the remains of one of the strongest and costliest hurricanes ever they hit the United States continued to advance north.

The powerful storm terrified millions of people for most of the week, pounding western Cuba before crossing Florida from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, where it gathered enough strength for a final assault on South Carolina. Now weakened to a post-tropical cyclone, Ian was expected to move into central North Carolina by Saturday morning and then move into Virginia and New York.

At least 30 people were confirmed dead, including 27 people in Florida, mostly from drowning, but others from the storm’s tragic aftermath. An elderly couple died after their oxygen machines shut off when they lost power, authorities said.

Meanwhile, distraught residents waded through knee-deep water Friday, salvaging what possessions they could from their flooded homes and loading them into rafts and canoes.

“I want to sit in the corner and cry. I don’t know what else to do,” Stevie Scuderi said after rummaging through her nearly destroyed Fort Myers apartment, kitchen mud stuck to her purple sandals.

Hurricane Ian's heavy rains and winds leave destruction across Florida

In South Carolina, Ian’s center made landfall near Georgetown, a small community along Winyah Bay about 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two connected to the popular resort town of Myrtle Beach.

The storm’s winds were much weaker Friday than during Ian’s landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week. Authorities and volunteers were still assessing the damage as shocked residents tried to make sense of what they had just experienced.

Anthony Rivera, 25, said he had to climb out the window of his first-floor apartment during the storm to get his grandmother and his girlfriend to the second floor. As they scrambled to escape the rising water, the storm surge had washed a boat right next to their apartment.

“This is the scariest thing in the world because I can’t stop any boat,” he said. “I’m not Superman.”

Pawleys Island, a beach community about 73 miles (117 kilometers) off the coast of South Carolina from Charleston, was one of the places hardest hit by Ian.

Eddie Wilder, who has been coming to Pawleys Island for more than six decades, said Friday’s storm was “crazy to watch.” He said waves of up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) washed over the pier, just two doors from his home.

Orange County Fire Rescue first responders check on the welfare of residents as they navigate a flooded neighborhood after Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

Phelan M. Ebenhack | AP

“We saw it hit the pier and we saw the pier disappear,” said Wilder, whose home is about 30 feet (9 meters) above the ocean and stayed dry inside. “I’ve seen quite a few storms, and this one was wild… We had a front row seat.”

Pawleys Pier was one of at least four along the South Carolina coast that were destroyed during Ian’s winds and rain.

“We saw it go down and we saw it float away with an American flag still flying,” Wilder said.

Pawleys Island’s bridges were strewn with palm fronds, pine needles and even a kayak salvaged from a nearby shore. An intercoastal waterway was littered with the wreckage of several shipwrecked and battered houseboats in the storm.

Although Ian has been passing through Florida for some time, new problems continued to arise. A 14-mile (22-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 75 was closed Friday night in both directions in the Port Charlotte area due to high water from the swollen Myakka River.

Ross Giarratana, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said Myakka was growing to a record 12.73 feet (3.88 meters) by Saturday morning.

Aerial video shows Hurricane Ian devastated the causeway on Sanibel Island

Further southeast, the Peace River was also in high flood early Saturday in Polk, Hardee and DeSoto counties. Most of those points have yet to come, Giarratana said.

“It was crazy to see how fast the rivers were rising,” he said. “We knew we had a record.”

The official death toll rose throughout the day Friday, and authorities warned it was likely to rise much higher as crews did a more thorough sweep of the damage. Searches were directed toward emergency rescues and initial assessments, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Hurricane Ian likely caused “more than $100 billion” in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & ​​Co., which regularly publishes catastrophe estimates fast If those numbers are confirmed, that would make Ian at least the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

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