Hurricane Ian Updates: Storm Becomes Cyclone After Landfall in South Carolina; Florida death toll rises
CHARLESTON, SC — Florida’s death toll from Hurricane Ian rose to 33 Friday afternoon, ABC News reports, as authorities in Florida confirmed multiple drowning and other fatalities Friday afternoon.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the deaths include a 22-year-old woman who was ejected from an ATV rollover on Friday due to a road meltdown in Manatee County and a man 71-year-old died of head injuries in his fall. a roof while installing rain shutters on Wednesday. Many other deaths were drownings, including a 68-year-old woman who was swept into the ocean by a wave.
Three more people died in Cuba as the storm headed north earlier in the week. The death toll was expected to rise significantly as emergency officials get a chance to search many of the areas hardest hit by the storm.
Ian made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 85 mph near Georgetown, South Carolina, just after 2 p.m. Friday. It was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone a few hours later.
Click here for live radar and the latest forecast on Ian’s path.
PHOTOS: Haunting aerial footage shows the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Sanibel Island
Hurricane Ian rekindled the South Carolina coast on Friday, tearing up piers and filling neighborhoods with calf-high water, after the killer storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped thousands in Their houses.
Ian’s center landed near Georgetown with much weaker winds than when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States. As it moved through South Carolina, Ian transformed from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.
Sheets of rain lashed trees and power lines and left many areas of Charleston’s downtown peninsula underwater. Four piers along the coast, including two in Myrtle Beach, crumbled into the waves and washed away. Online cameras showed neighborhoods filled with seawater in Garden City up to calf level.
Ian left a wide swath of destruction in Florida, flooding areas on both its coasts, ripping homes off their slabs, demolishing beachfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power. At least nine people have been confirmed dead in the United States – a number that is expected to rise as authorities confirm more deaths and search for people.
Rescue teams piloted boats and waded through river streets on Thursday to rescue thousands of people trapped amid flooded homes and shattered buildings.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday crews went door to door to more than 3,000 homes in the hardest hit areas.
“It really was a Herculean effort,” he told a news conference in Tallahassee.
Among those killed were an 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who relied on oxygen machines that stopped working due to power outages, and a 67-year-old man who was waiting to be rescued and is fell into rising waters inside his home, authorities said.
Officials fear the death toll could rise dramatically, given the vast territory submerged by the storm.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said responders have so far focused on “hasty” searches, aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, which will be followed by two additional waves of research. First responders who encounter possible remains leave them without confirmation, he said on Friday, citing the case of a submerged house as an example.
“The water was over the roof, yes, but we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim and he was able to identify that it was human remains. We don’t know exactly how many “said Guthrie.
Desperate to locate and rescue their loved ones, social media users shared phone numbers, addresses and photos of family members and friends online for anyone to watch.
MORE: Piece of Sanibel Causeway falls into sea during Ian, cutting off Florida island where 6.3K live
Orlando residents returned to flooded homes on Friday, rolling up their pants to wade through knee-deep muddy water on their streets. Friends of Ramon Rodriguez dropped off ice, bottled water and hot coffee at the entrance to his housing estate, where 10 of 50 homes were flooded and the road resembled a lake. He had no electricity or food at home and his car was stuck in water.
“There’s water everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “The situation here is pretty bad.”
University of Central Florida students living in an apartment complex near the Orlando campus have arrived to retrieve belongings from their waterlogged units.
Nursing student Deandra Smith was sleeping when others evacuated and remained in her third-floor apartment with her dog. On Friday, other students helped her ashore by pushing her through the flooded parking lot onto a pontoon. She wasn’t sure if she should go back to her parents in South Florida or find a safe haven so she could keep going to school. “I’m still trying to figure it out,” she said.
RELATED: Hurricane Ian leaves traces of destruction in Florida, with estimates of billions in damage
The devastating storm surge destroyed many older homes on the barrier island of Sanibel, Florida, and carved crevices into its sand dunes. The taller condominiums were intact, but the ground floor had been blown away. Trees and electric poles were scattered everywhere.
City lifeguards, private crews and the Coast Guard used boats and helicopters Friday to evacuate residents who remained during the storm, then were cut off from the mainland when a causeway collapsed. Volunteers who traveled to the island by personal watercraft helped escort an elderly couple to an area where Coast Guard lifeguards took them aboard a helicopter.
A few hours after weakening into a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. Ian made landfall in South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph). When it hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph (240 km/h).
After the heaviest rain blew through Charleston, Will Shalosky examined a large elm tree outside his home that had fallen on his downtown street. He noted that the damage could have been much worse.
RELATED: Hurricane Ian could cause $65 billion in damage
“If this tree fell any other way, it would be in our house,” Shalosky said. “It’s quite scary, quite shocking.”
In North Carolina, heavy bands of rain and winds crept into the state on Friday afternoon. Governor Roy Cooper warned residents to be vigilant, as up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas, with high winds.
“Hurricane Ian is upon us. Expect torrential rains and sustained high winds over most of our state,” Cooper said. “Our message today is simple: be smart and be safe.”
In Washington, President Joe Biden said he was directing that “every possible measure be taken to save lives and provide assistance to survivors.”
“It’s going to take months, years to rebuild,” Biden said.
“I just want the people of Florida to know, we see what you’re going through and we’re with you.”
Gomez Licon reported from Punta Gorda, Florida; Associated Press contributors include Terry Spencer and Tim Reynolds in Fort Myers, Florida; Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein in Washington; and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York.
ABC News contributed to this report
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.