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The death toll from Hurricane Ian in the United States rose to at least 31 people on Saturday as rescue teams in Florida painstakingly searched for survivors and the Carolinas began assessing damage following a strongest hurricanes to ever hit the country.
As of Saturday, more than 1,000 people had been rescued along Florida’s southwest coast, National Guard chief Daniel Hokanson said.
Of the 31 people confirmed dead, 27 were from Florida. Four people have died in North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper said Saturday.
Now a post-tropical cyclone, Ian tracked north Saturday through central North Carolina after pounding the South Carolina coast and devastating swaths of Florida.
Power was knocked out for more than 300,000 customers in North Carolina and nearly 100,000 in Virginia as of Saturday morning, according to poweroutage.us.
In South Carolina, nearly 60,000 people were still without power after Ian knocked down trees and flooded roads.
Meanwhile, more 1.2 million people was left without power in Florida as authorities assessed the damage and continued search and rescue efforts. The storm left a wide trail of destruction across the state, flooding areas on both its coasts, ripping homes from 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 floated as Ian made landfall, according to a Twitter post from the Pawleys Island Police Department.
► Volusia County Florida Community Information Manager Kevin Captain said at a news conference Friday afternoon that Daytona International Speedway was inundated by Hurricane Ian. “Even our iconic highway is under water,” he said.
►Cubans protested for a second night on Friday over delays in restoring power to the country after Hurricane Ian knocked out power on the island.
Heavy rain hits central Appalachia and mid-Atlantic
Heavy rain was forecast Saturday morning for central Appalachia and the mid-Atlantic as Ian moved through 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 evening.
But until then, Ian will bring gusty winds and drop 2 to 4 inches of rain with local highs of 6 inches over the central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic Coast, which may experience limited flash and urban flooding.
Major riverine flooding is expected in parts of central Florida next week, but swells seen in the southeast are expected to ease over the weekend.
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A PATH OF DESTRUCTION:Photos show damage from Hurricane Ian in Cuba, Florida and the Carolinas
Death toll expected to rise in Florida and other states
The destruction left by Ian made it difficult to quickly know how many people perished in the storm, but the death toll rose to 31, the Associated Press said on Saturday.
As of Friday morning, Florida Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said there have been as many as 21 deaths, but only one has been confirmed as a result of the storm, while officials assessed 20 other deaths.
Among the new deaths reported in Florida 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 trapped in a window after drowning and a woman entangled in Sons in Lee County Florida.
Most of the 27 people who died in Florida drowned, but others died as a result of the storm, including an elderly couple who died after their oxygen machines lost power.
The storm also killed at least four people in North Carolina, including a 25-year-old man whose vehicle aquaplaned, a 24-year-old woman whose vehicle slid off a wet road and hit a tree, a 22-year-old who drowned in his truck and a 65-year-old man who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from his generator, Governor Cooper said in a statement Saturday.
“We mourn with the families of those who died and urge everyone to be careful when cleaning up to avoid more deaths or injuries,” Cooper said.
Before hitting Florida, Ian also swept through Cuba earlier this week, killing three people.
Tracking Post-Tropical Cyclone Ian
After slowly crossing Florida, Ian gained strength over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday before wreaking havoc in South Carolina, Georgia and other east coast states.
It weakened to a post-tropical cyclone Friday afternoon, and at 11 a.m. Saturday was located 160 miles west-southwest of Richmond, Va., and moving north-north -is at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 25 mph, the hurricane center said.
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The recovery begins in Venice, Florida
VENICE, Fla. — Power, traffic lights and cell phone service all improved Saturday as returning residents scramble for gas and hot meals from food trucks set up in gated parking lots of restaurants. Heavy equipment rolled over trailers and major detours were put in place due to the flood-related safety closure of nearby Interstate 75.
Tree trimmers, water damage repairers and electricians were busy at work restoring services to an area that has seen high winds but relatively less damage than the nearby town of Edgewater.
After rising early, Douglas Schuler, 75, stood in line for an hour at Costco to get gas for his generator, which he shares with neighbors. He said he still didn’t have reliable cell service, but wanted people to know that his neighborhood in the southern Venice area was recovering.
“I have relatives in the Midwest who are probably wondering if we’re okay,” he said. “We are much better off than most.”
After refueling, Schuler loaded his SUV with a chainsaw and other equipment to clean up broken branches around the South Venice Baptist Church, where he is to be named a deacon on Sunday.
He saw a few of his fellow parishioners and encouraged them to attend Sunday services, but he didn’t know who would actually show up.
“We’ll see how many will come,” he said. “We will try to make life normal.”
— Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
Rising waters continue to wreak havoc in Florida, where river floods persist long after the winds have passed.
As heavy rains pour into suburban and inland areas, the continued flooding of rivers shows how Ian’s impacts have extended far beyond Florida’s beaches and coastal towns.
Rising waters turned roads into canals, flooded vehicles and trapped families in flooded homes. In North Port, a suburb of Sarasota, residents are running out of food and water.
“The water keeps rising,” said Samuel Almanzar, 42. “Who knows when this will stop.”
Local officials said some areas would see rising waters over the next two days and encouraged residents of flooded neighborhoods to evacuate.
Of its 2.1 million customers who lost power after Hurricane Ian, Florida Power & Light, a utility that serves about half of Floridians, restored power to two-thirds of them. , or 1.4 million customers, company spokesman Bryan Garner told USA TODAY on Saturday.
Crews of about 21,000, including those providing aid from 30 states, are working to restore power to remaining customers, most of whom can expect power by next week. Garner said FPL will have clearer timelines for the hardest-hit communities by Saturday night.
“In these hardest hit areas, there’s probably such catastrophic damage that even if we fix the grid, there will be homes and businesses that won’t be able to receive power,” he said. . “For some homes and businesses, something may have to be rebuilt and electricians may have to come in, so they may be out for an extended period of time.”
As Ian flooded some areas with up to 17 inches of rain, floodwaters poured out of scenic lakes, ponds and rivers and into homes, forcing emergency evacuations and rescues.
Researchers who study floods, development and climate change were horrified by the emerging images but not surprised. For years, they’ve warned that sprawling development in Florida and other coastal states is unsustainable, especially with global warming fueling hurricane rains.
“This is kind of what we’ve been expecting for days, and it’s still heartbreaking to see so many people stranded,” said Kevin Reed, associate professor of atmospheric science at Stony Brook University in New York.
He and other experts said they expected Ian’s devastation to lead to a push for Florida to do more to protect residents from future flooding as global warming makes natural disasters and rainfall more extreme.
— Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY
At least 25 dead in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona
Less than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico and plunged the island into darkness, the country’s health department announced that at least 25 people died from the storm.
The deaths may be directly or indirectly related to the hurricane, the department said.
Eighteen of the deaths were people over the age of 65, while 15 were men and 10 were women.
Contributors: John Bacon, Thao Nguyen, Jorge Ortiz, Doyle Rice, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press