Editor’s note: Don’t have power? Click here for a lite version of this page with a quicker load time.
Ian strengthened back into a Category 1 hurricane late Thursday and was set to make landfall Friday afternoon on the coast of South Carolina before moving inland across the state and into North Carolina by Saturday.
Heavy rains and tropical storm conditions had already reached the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas by Friday morning, where life-threatening storm surge 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.
Meanwhile across Florida, the death toll was rising as more than 2 million customers were without power Friday morning, according to utility tracker poweroutage.us.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday the storm caused a “500-year flooding event” and said Coast Guard helicopters were plucking trapped residents from the roofs of homes. Communities across the state were or will be swamped by the overwhelming waters.
“The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that has been done is historic,” DeSantis said. “We’ve never seen a flood event like this, we’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.”
►In South Carolina, President Joe Biden declared an emergency and ordered federal assistance, according to the White House.
►Losses from Hurricane Ian so far range between $ 25 billion and $ 40 billion, the Fitch Ratings credit agency reported Thursday.
►At least nine people were rescued after a boat with more than 20 migrants sank in storm weather near the Florida Keys. On Friday, the Coast Guard said one person’s body was recovered near Ocean Edge Marina
►Airports in Tampa and Orlando were expected to reopen Friday, while Fort Myers Airport in southwest Florida remained closed Friday. More than 1,660 flights were canceled Friday due to the storm, according to FlightAware.
In Charleston, powerful wind gusts and rain as Ian approached
Meteorologists were expecting conditions to steadily deteriorate across Charleston on Friday morning, when Ian was located 105 miles south-southeast of the coastal city with 85 mph winds. Traffic had cleared the streets, muting the typically bustling morning commute ahead of the storm.
Some areas had already received between 2 and 3 inches of rain by 8 am, and “quite a bit of flooding” had begun inundating downtown Charleston as heavy rain fell amid rising tide levels, said Steven Taylor, a lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston. The flood-prone city could see up to 8 inches of rainfall.
Wind gusts were observed along the Charleston County coast at 50 to 60 mph and the area could see between 4 to 7 feet of flooding Friday, Taylor said. “We recently had a wind gust as high as 66 mph on the south end of Folly Beach and winds continue to increase across the area,” Taylor told USA TODAY.
Ian’s center is expected to travel northeast of Charleston by Friday afternoon, and forecasters anticipate weakening of the storm as it moves into North Carolina.
“We do expect a fairly rapid improvement of conditions as it moves to the north, and we expect by this evening, things will start settling down fairly quickly,” Taylor said.
After slowly moving across Florida, Hurricane Ian gained new strength over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday before wreaking havoc on South Carolina, Georgia and more states along the East Coast. Check here for the latest updates on the storms strength and track where it’s headed next.
As of 8 am Friday, Ian was about 105 miles south-southeast of Charleston, and was moving north at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, the hurricane center said.
At least 14 deaths confirmed in Florida, toll expected to grow
The destruction left behind by Ian has made it difficult to get an accurate assessment of the loss of life, but there are already reports of 14 deaths, and more are expected.
- Sanibel Island officials reported two deaths. Residents of at least 200 households had chosen not to evacuate.
- In Charlotte County just north of Fort Myers, there were six confirmed deaths, county commissioner Chris Constance told CNN on Thursday afternoon.
- In Lee County, which includes the island of Cayo Costa near Cape Coral where the storm made landfall, Sheriff Carmine Marceno told CNN that at least five deaths were confirmed.
- 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 pool in the heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
Fort Myers Beach ‘is gone’ after Hurricane Ian damage
Fort Myers Beach took the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s assault on Florida’s coastline. The Category 4 storm sent 150 mph winds and a towering storm surge tearing through the town’s center. On Thursday, residents 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 flood waters. “It’s the only house I have and if it’s gone…” She trailed off.
For Mitch Stough and his brother, Fort Myers Beach was their livelihood. Now, it’s been utterly destroyed. Stough worked at the landmark Lani Kai resort and said the storm surge stripped the vacation spot’s first floor to its structural elements.
“There’s nothing there,” Stough said. “Fort Myers Beach is gone.” Read more here.
– Dan Glaun, John Kennedy, Samantha Neely, The News-Press
Contributing: John Bacon, Thao Nguyen, Jorge Ortiz, Doyle Rice, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press