Search and rescue efforts intensify in Florida as Ian heads north

Hurricane Ian made landfall for the second time this week in a second state on Friday, crashing into the South Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm that brought driving rain and storm surge, but it seems unlikely to cause the kind of devastation that was still emerging in Florida.

There, the vast parameters of the damage became more evident as emergency crews pulled people and bodies from the streets – some still flooded and others dry but littered with wreckage. About 34,000 Floridians had applied for federal emergency assistance, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said. At least 10 people had been determined to be victims of the storm Friday night, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said, but officials warned that confirming causes of death was a slow and deliberate process and said that the toll was likely to increase as a doctor. examiners performed more autopsies.

“We are only just beginning to see the scale of this destruction” in Florida, President Biden said on Friday. The disaster, he said, was “not just a crisis for Florida, it’s an American crisis.” Indeed, the storm, although weakened, was expected to track north into Virginia and other east coast states after crossing the Carolinas.

This destruction could be seen across Florida. Damage to a 3-mile causeway severed from Sanibel, a battered barrier island off the southwest coast from Florida, from the mainland. DeSantis said barges were carrying heavy equipment to clear debris there, and a Miami-Dade fire crew that arrived by helicopter continued door-to-door on the island and two others nearby, Captiva. and Pine Island, after rescuing 42 people. Thursday.

Near North Port, south of Sarasota, the impact of Ian’s torrential rains continued to build as water overflowing from inland swamps quickly shrouded homes. Good Samaritans launched boats and kayaks from the freeway berm in an attempt to rescue stranded residents.

In central Florida, where Ian dumped more than 17 inches of rain early Thursday, floodwaters from rising rivers and lakes, as well as oceanfront storm surges, trapped hundreds of people in their homes. Evacuations from hospitals, assisted living centers and low-lying communities continued through Friday. National Guard and Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputies were rescuing residents of nursing homes in Kissimmee, south of Orlando, using airboats and high-clearance trucks.

“So far, we’ve had to perform nearly 300 rescues of people trapped in flooded areas,” Daytona Beach Police Department spokesman Tim Ehrenkaufer said, adding that the heavy rains that preceded Ian had prepared the area for flooding.

“The water was already high, so there was nothing left to soak it up,” he said. “Then the hurricane brought too much rain in too little time. There was nowhere to go for all that water.

More than 1.7 million customers in Florida are still without power, including about 99% in Hardee County, DeSantis said. More than 33,000 people were staying in 257 shelters, according to a Friday morning update of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Lee County, home to Fort Myers, was without water due to a burst water main, DeSantis said; water production facilities were not operating in at least four other counties, and boil water advisories were in effect in 19, FEMA said. Tankers were carrying water to area hospitals, the governor said.

“It’s something that’s going to be a big deal for a long time,” DeSantis said Friday morning in Lee County, where he described “disappearing homes. Destroyed, yeah, but sometimes these things, you see home and you know it was there – some of those things just disappeared.

Floridians lined up at gas stations in the hardest-hit areas, some of which faced fuel shortages. DeSantis said “massive amounts” of fuel were on their way to the state.

After weakening over Florida on Thursday and then strengthening in the Atlantic Ocean, Ian made landfall for the second time near Georgetown, South Carolina at 2:05 p.m., picking up winds of 85 mph as the first hurricane to hit South Carolina since Matthew in 2016. The National Hurricane Center had warned that the storm would cause a “life-threatening” power surge. and damaging winds, and on its approach produced a 4-foot surge in Myrtle Beach and flooded some streets in downtown Charleston.

In the state’s beach towns, residents had prepared for flooding by piling sandbags at the doors of shops and restaurants. Before landing, President Biden had urged residents to “please listen to all warnings”. But soon after the storm made landfall, Governor Henry McMaster (R) expressed relief.

“A lot of prayers have been answered – this storm is not as bad as it could have been, but don’t let your guard down just yet,” he said. “We are not out of the woods yet. There’s water on the roads, still high winds, and it’s still dangerous in many parts of the state.

Hours later, Ian weakened slightly to become a “post-tropical cyclone”, the National Hurricane Center said, and the rain began to subside near the coast as it moved eastward. ‘west. But the Hurricane Center said showers will hit inland areas even if its winds weaken, with up to 8 inches expected in central South Carolina, North Carolina and southern Virginia.

The center warned that “dangerous storm surges, flash flooding and high winds are still expected.”

As of Friday morning, most businesses on Folly Beach, an island in South Carolina, were closed.

Brian Hawkins, stood outside Bert’s Market – which had stuck to its slogan, “We can doze, but we never close” – with a cup of coffee in hand. Owner of a charter fishing company, Hawkins said he was not worried about Ian until Thursday when he started securing surfboards and items in his garden. At 4:00 p.m., he went to the landing stage on the island to fill sandbags from the city-provided sand truck.

“One truck wasn’t enough,” Hawkins, 46, said. “At 5 p.m. they were out.”

Hawkins said he lost at least three days of fishing charters, but he had seen worse on the island, where he has spent most of his life.

More than 147,000 people were without power in South Carolina Friday night, according to Data of PowerOutage.us. Wind and rain were strengthening across North Carolina, which had more than 140,000 power outages as of 4:30 p.m. Friday, according to the state. Emergency management Desk.

When Hurricane Ian hit the Carolinas, it brought back traumatic memories of other great storms. But few expected a similar scale this time around.

“I’m not expecting anything crazy to happen, but I’m prepared for more than expected,” said fishing guide Christian Wolfe, 28.

Florence dropped nearly 30 inches of rain on Wilmington in September 2018 and flooded or washed out all roads in the city of 118,000. The storm turned the region into an island for more than a week and claimed 54 lives.

Some of those unfortunate memories lingered for locals on Friday as the wind picked up and Ian’s trail moved further east, closing in on the area with each new update from the National Hurricane Center. Local officials said they were ready for anything but did not expect a disaster.

“We are much better prepared for extreme weather now than we were during Hurricane Florence,” New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple said Friday morning as rain and wind picked up. significantly intensified. The county was opening shelters and convening its emergency operations center to better manage the county’s disaster response, he said.

Over the past four years, the county has also streamlined its watershed. “We can’t keep the water out, but we made sure it had an easy way out,” Zapple added.

Still far from clear on Friday was the scope of Ian’s death toll. Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s top emergency management official, said Friday morning that one person in Polk County was confirmed to have been killed by the storm, and 12 in Charlotte County and eight in Collier County could also have been victims.

Guthrie said emergency teams had so far only been able to perform “hasty searches” and that determining the exact causes of death was the job of medical examiners. Guthrie described a Coast Guard swimmer diving into a house where the water had risen to the roof, finding what “appeared to be human remains”. We don’t know exactly how many. He added: “We want to be transparent, but we just don’t know that number.”

Separately, Sarasota County said the deaths of two people there – two elderly people whose oxygen machines were disabled during a power outage – “appear to be linked to this catastrophic weather event”. And Carmine Marceno, the Lee County Sheriff, tweeted that his jurisdiction had seen 21 deaths, but that five were “unrelated to the storm”. The sheriff’s department did not respond to requests for clarification, and it was unclear whether deaths in those counties were included in the state tally.

In parts of Florida, Ian’s aftermath was becoming worse than his direct impact. The storm moved through north-central Florida on Wednesday, but on Friday morning Amber Harper and Dallin Osborne were filling sandbags in an attempt to keep the rising St. Johns River from filling their home.

The 1958 shell stone house in Astor withstood the winds of the storm, as did all the oaks and cypresses on the river bank. But the Saint Johns were making slow progress. He had already destroyed their dock, yard, and patio, and he was about to reach the front door before they dropped nearly a dozen 40-pound sandbags.

“When we left yesterday the river was rising, but it wasn’t all the way to the back door, and now it is,” Harper said of the home her family had owned for more than 30 years. “I was emotional for sure, because I had never seen him like this.”

After stacking the sandbags in front of the door, their next task was to try to get Harper’s car out of the flooded front yard.

“We have family in Daytona Beach, and their house is also flooded,” Harper said. “Everyone is just trying to do their best to save what they have.”

Rozsa and Craig reported from Florida, Samenow from Washington, and Brulliard from Boulder, Colorado. Stratton Lawrence in South Carolina, Rory Laverty in North Carolina and Praveena Somasundaram and Andrea Salcedo in Washington.