CHARLESTON, SC – Rescuers searched for survivors among the ruins of Florida homes flooded by Hurricane Ian as authorities in South Carolina waited for daylight to assess damage from the storm’s second strike as only remnants of one of the strongest and costliest disasters to ever hit the United States. continued to push north.
The powerful storm terrorized millions of people for most of the week, battering western Cuba before moving across Florida from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, where it gathered enough strength for a final assault on South Carolina. It has since weakened into a still dangerous post-tropical cyclone and was moving across North Carolina into Virginia overnight, pushing heavy rain toward the mid-Atlantic states.
At least 30 people have been 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 due to a power outage, authorities said. Meanwhile, distraught residents waded through knee-deep water on Friday, salvaging what they could from their flooded homes and loading them onto rafts and canoes.
“I want to sit in the corner and cry. I don’t know what else to do,” Stevie Scuderi said after walking through her largely destroyed Fort Myers apartment, the mud from her kitchen clinging to her purple sandals. .
In South Carolina, Ian’s center landed near Georgetown, a small community along Winyah Bay about 95 miles north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two connected to the popular tourist town of Myrtle Beach.
Winds from the storm were much weaker on Friday than when Ian landed on Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week. There, 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 of his first-floor apartment window during the storm to carry his grandmother and girlfriend to the second floor. As they rushed to escape the rising waters, the storm surge swept away a boat right next to his apartment.
“It’s the scariest thing in the world because I can’t stop any boat,” he said. “I am not Superman.”
Even though Ian has long been in Florida, new problems have continued to arise. A 14-mile (22-kilometer) stretch of main Interstate 75 was closed Friday night in both directions in the Port Charlotte area due to massive water swelling in the Myakka River.
Authorities warn death toll could rise as rescue attempts and damage assessment continue
The official death toll climbed throughout the day on Friday, with authorities warning it would likely rise much further once crews carried out a more thorough sweep of the damage. Friday’s searches were aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said. He described 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.
The dead included a 68-year-old woman swept into the ocean by a wave and a 67-year-old man who fell into rising waters inside his home while waiting to be rescued.
Authorities also said a 22-year-old woman died after an ATV overturned following a road wash and a 71-year-old man suffered a fatal fall from a roof while he was installing rain shutters. Three other people died in Cuba earlier in the week.
Hurricane Ian likely caused “well over $100 billion” in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & Company, which regularly publishes reports. rapid disaster assessments. If confirmed, that would make Ian at least the fourth costliest hurricane in US history.
In the Sarasota suburb of North Point, Fla., residents of the Country Club Ridge subdivision waded through flooded streets on Friday. John Chihil solemnly towed a canoe and another small boat in ankle-deep water.
“There really isn’t much to feel. It’s an act of God, you know? he said. “I mean, it’s all you can do is pray and hope for a better day tomorrow.”