Hurricane Ian hits South Carolina as Florida death toll mounts

CHARLESTON, South Carolina –

A revived Hurricane Ian hit the South Carolina coast on Friday, ripping apart docks and flooding streets after the fierce storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands in their homes and leaving at least 17 dead.

The powerful storm, estimated to be one of the costliest hurricanes to ever hit the US, strikes South Carolina.

While the center of Ian made landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina, on Friday with much weaker winds than when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week, the storm left many areas of the central peninsula underwater. of Charleston. It also washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two in Myrtle Beach.

Online cameras showed seawater filling Garden City neighborhoods to calf level. As Ian passed through South Carolina on its way to North Carolina on Friday night, it changed from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.

Ian left a wide swath of destruction across Florida, flooding areas on both coasts, ripping homes off their slabs, demolishing waterfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power.

Many of the deaths were drownings, including that of a 68-year-old woman swept into the ocean by a wave. A 67-year-old man waiting to be rescued died after falling into rising water inside his home, authorities said.

Other storm-related fatalities included a 22-year-old woman who died after an ATV overturned due to a highway collapse and a 71-year-old man who fell from a roof while putting up rain shutters. An 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who relied on oxygen machines also died after equipment stopped working during power outages.

Three other people died in Cuba earlier in the week as the storm moved north. The death toll was expected to rise substantially once emergency officials had a chance to search many of the hardest-hit areas.

Rescue teams piloted boats and walked Florida’s waterfront streets in the aftermath of the storm to save thousands of people trapped between flooded homes and shattered buildings.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that crews had gone door-to-door to more than 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.

“There really has been a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Hurricane Ian is likely to have caused “more than $100 billion” in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & ​​Company, which periodically issues flash estimates. of catastrophes. If those numbers hold up, that would make Ian at least the fourth costliest hurricane in US history.

Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said first responders have so far focused on “rush” searches, aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, to be followed by two additional waves of searches. Initial rescuers coming across possible wreckage are leaving it unconfirmed, he said Friday, citing the case of a submerged house as an example.

“The water was over the roof to the right, but we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim into it and he was able to identify what appeared to be human remains. We don’t know exactly how many,” Guthrie said.

Desperate to locate and rescue their loved ones, social media users shared phone numbers, addresses and photos of their family and friends online for anyone to verify.

Orlando residents returned to their flooded homes Friday, rolling up their pants to walk knee-deep in muddy streets. Ramón Rodríguez’s friends left ice, bottled water and hot coffee at the entrance to his subdivision, where 10 of the 50 houses were flooded and the road looked like a lake. He had no electricity or food in his house, and his car was trapped by water.

“There is water everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “The situation here is pretty bad.”

The devastating storm surge destroyed many old houses on the barrier island of Sanibel, Florida, and opened cracks in its sand dunes. The tallest condominium buildings were intact but with the bottom floor blown out. Trees and utility poles were scattered everywhere.

Municipal rescuers, private crews and the Coast Guard used boats and helicopters Friday to evacuate residents who stayed through the storm and were later cut off from the mainland when a causeway collapsed. Volunteers who went to the island in personal watercraft helped escort an elderly couple to an area where Coast Guard rescuers took them aboard a helicopter.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm as it crossed the Florida panhandle, Ian regained strength Thursday night over the Atlantic. Ian made landfall in South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). When it hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was a powerful 150 mph (240 km/h) Category 4 hurricane.

After the heaviest rains hit Charleston, Will Shalosky examined a large elm tree in front of his house that had fallen onto a downtown street. He pointed out that the damage could have been much worse.

“If this tree had fallen any other way, it would be in our house,” Shalosky said. “It’s pretty scary, pretty jarring.”

Heavy rain and Ian winds crossed into North Carolina on Friday night. Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents to be vigilant as up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas.

“Hurricane Ian is on our doorstep. Torrential rain and sustained high winds are expected across most of our state,” Cooper said. “Our message today is simple: be smart and be safe.”

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he was ordering that “every possible action be taken to save lives and help survivors.”

“It will take months, years to rebuild,” Biden said.

“I just want the people of Florida to know that we see what you’re going through and we stand with you.”


Gómez Licón reported from Punta Gorda, Florida; Associated Press contributors include Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Terry Spencer and Tim Reynolds in Fort Myers, Florida; Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Fla.; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Bobby Caina Calvan in New York and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina.

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