The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Ian rose to 27 as the storm, now a post-tropical cyclone, moved north through central North Carolina after battering the South Carolina coast and devastating areas of Florida.
Power was out for more than 300,000 customers in North Carolina and nearly 100,000 in Virginia Saturday morning, according to poweroutage.us.
In South Carolina, nearly 60,000 people were still without power after Ian brought down trees and flooded roads.
Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million people remained without power in Florida as officials assessed damage and continued search and rescue efforts. The storm left a wide trail of destruction across the state, flooding areas on both coasts, tearing homes off their slabs and demolishing beachfront businesses.
President Joe Biden said Friday that Hurricane Ian is “likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history” and that Florida will take “months, years, to rebuild.”
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►In South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach, the end of the Pawleys Island Pier collapsed and was floating when Ian made landfall, according to a Twitter post from the Pawleys Island Police Department.
► Florida’s Volusia County Community Information Director Kevin Captain said at a press conference Friday afternoon that Daytona International Speedway was flooded by Hurricane Ian. “Even our iconic freeway is under water,” he said.
Heavy rain affects the central Appalachians in the mid-Atlantic
Heavy rain was forecast Saturday morning for the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic as Ian tracked across central North Carolina and into Virginia, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to weaken and dissipate over south-central Virginia by Saturday night.
But until then, Ian will bring strong winds and drop 2 to 4 inches of rain with local highs of 6 inches in the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic coast, which may see limited urban flooding and flooding.
Heavy river flooding is expected in parts of central Florida over the next week, but waves seen in the Southeast should subside over the weekend.
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The death toll is likely to rise in Florida
The destruction left by Ian made it difficult to quickly know how many had died in the storm, but the death toll has risen to 27, the Associated Press said Friday night.
As of Friday morning, Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said there were up to 21 dead, but only one was confirmed as a result of the storm, while officials were assessing 20 more deaths .
Among the newly reported deaths were a 62-year-old woman who was injured and drowned after a tree fell on a mobile home, a 54-year-old man found stuck in a window after drowning and a woman entangled in wires in Lee from Florida. county
Before hitting Florida, Ian also swept Cuba earlier this week, killing three people.
Follower of post-tropical cyclone Ian
After moving slowly across Florida, Ian gained new strength over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday before wreaking havoc in South Carolina, Georgia and more East Coast states.
It weakened to a posttropical cyclone late Friday and by 5 a.m. Saturday was 30 miles south of Greensboro, North Carolina, moving north at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, the hurricane center said.
Check here for the latest updates on the strength of the storm and track where it’s headed.
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Flooding expected, but still ‘heartbreaking’
As Ian drenched some areas with up to 17 inches of rain, floodwaters spilled from scenic lakes, ponds and rivers and into homes, forcing evacuations and emergency rescues.
Researchers who study floods, development and climate change were horrified by the emerging images, but not surprised. For years, they have warned that sprawling development in Florida and other coastal states is unsustainable, especially with a warming climate that overloads hurricane rainfall.
“This is what we expected days in advance, and it’s still heartbreaking to see so many people stranded,” said Kevin Reed, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Stony Brook University in New York.
He and other experts said they hope Ian’s devastation will lead to a push for Florida to do more to protect residents from future flooding as a warming climate makes natural disasters and rainfall more extreme.
— Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY
Contributing: John Bacon, Thao Nguyen, Jorge Ortiz, Doyle Rice, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press