Ian regains hurricane strength after Florida floods, widespread power outages

A day after leaving a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital’s intensive care unit and powering 2.7 million people, Ian took to the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Gained the strength of the storm. Route towards South Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ian became a tropical storm on land early Thursday. But a hurricane warning was issued for the entire coast of South Carolina later in the day as the center of the storm moved off the coast of Florida and back into the ocean.

Forecasters predicted that Atlantic waters would strengthen it into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on Friday in South Carolina.

The Hurricane Center says the storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to 120 km/h on Thursday.

Floodwaters rose to waist near Orlando, Fla., far inland, and tropical storm-force winds extended outward to 665 kilometers from the center. Up to 30 cm of rain was forecast in parts of northeastern Florida, coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It could drop up to 15 centimeters in southern Virginia as the storm moves inland over the Carolinas, and the center said landfall was possible in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Ian turned roads into rivers and blown up trees as it slammed into southwest Florida with 241 km/h winds, the fifth-strongest hurricane ever to hit the US when measured by wind speed.

A stoplight pole blown up by Hurricane Ian is seen in downtown Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. Hurricane Ian has left a trail of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital’s intensive care unit and knocking out power. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/The Associated Press)

Rescue efforts continue as the crew pilots boats and crosses flooded streets to help stranded Floridians.

“The Coast Guard had people who were in their attics and escaped from their roofs,” said Ron DeSantis of Florida Gov. “We’ve never seen a storm of this magnitude …

Officials confirmed at least one hurricane-related death in Florida – a 72-year-old man in Deltona who fell into a canal while using a hose to drain his pool in heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.

US President Joe Biden said he has approved DeSantis’ request for the federal government to cover the full cost of clearing the debris and the cost to save lives.

Biden said, “This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history. The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing preliminary reports of how much damage there could be.” The president said he would visit Florida “when conditions permit”.

The damage would be “catastrophic” and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is preparing to displace potentially thousands of people over the long term, agency director Dina Criswell said Thursday.

‘Keep trying’: asks not to get help

Law enforcement officers in nearby Fort Myers, Fla., received calls from people trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Arguments were also posted on social media sites, some with videos showing debris-covered water rushing towards the eaves of houses.

With no electricity and poor cellphone coverage, many calls for help were not getting there, even as emergency workers looked through broken trees to reach people in flooded homes.

An aerial view of damaged and submerged homes rippled through the area of ​​Hurricane Ian in this still image taken from video in Lee County, Fla. on Thursday. (WPLG-TV/ABC/Reuters)

Part of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to Barrier Island, where 6,300 people normally live in Lee County. It is not clear how many of them stayed.

South of Sanibel, huge waves destroyed the historic beach pier in Naples, even tearing down the mounds below. “Right now, there are no ferries,” said Penny Taylor, a commissioner for Collier County, which includes Naples.

Emergency workers looked through fallen trees to reach people in flooded homes, but with no electricity and virtually no cell service, it was impossible for many to seek help from the hardest-hit coastal areas, where booming had come.

“Portable towers for cell service are on the way. Chances are your loved ones don’t have the ability to contact you,” the sheriff’s office in Collier County said. “We can tell you that as daylight turns on, this is going to be a tough day.”

Hospitals face a variety of problems

Thousands of people were evacuated from nursing homes and hospitals in Florida on Thursday, as Hurricane Ian began to reduce winds and water. Evacuations of hundreds were taking place in the hard-hit Fort Myers area, where damage cut potable water to at least nine hospitals.

Kristen Knapp of the Florida Health Care Association says 43 nursing homes evacuated about 3,400 residents as of Thursday morning, most of them in southwest Florida.

Storm waves flooded a low-level emergency room at HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, while fierce winds tore part of its fourth-floor ceiling from its intensive care unit, according to a doctor working there.

Dr. Birgit Bodine spent the night in the hospital, anticipating that the storm would become busy, “but we didn’t expect the roof on the fourth floor to blow up,” she said.

Bodine plans to spend another night in the hospital just in case the oncoming storm surges could make the situation worse.

“Ambulances may be coming soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this time,” she said. “Because we have doubled and tripled.”

A badly damaged causeway in Sanibel, Lee County, is seen after Hurricane Ian tore through the area. (WPLG-TV/ABC/Reuters)

Even as the problem was too much water in much of the state, at least nine hospitals in southwest Florida had the opposite problem.

“We have a large health system in Southwest Florida that is without water in all of their facilities. And so they are rapidly getting to a point where they will no longer be able to safely care for their patients,” says Mary Mayhew said the president, Florida Hospital Association.

Mayu said more than 1,200 patients were being evacuated.

Steady Scuderi looks at his apartment in Fort Myers, Fla., early Thursday, after it was damaged by floodwaters. (Joe Redl/Getty Images)

In Orlando, residents of Avante Nursing Home were taken in ambulances and waiting buses through floodwaters in a neighborhood that doesn’t usually flood. Paramedics lowered residents on stretchers and wheelchairs.

Other states preparing for deluge

According to the PowerOutage.us site, more than 2.7 million Florida homes and businesses were left without electricity. Most homes and businesses in the 12 counties were without electricity.

Airline tracking website FlightAware said 1,935 flights were canceled for Thursday and 738 for Friday flights were canceled.

Walt Disney said its Orlando theme parks would close again on Thursday.

The storm is predicted to return to the coast in South Carolina on Friday. The governors of that state, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia had all already declared states of emergency.

“This city will have water tomorrow,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. He called for the city to be closed in preparation for Ian’s approach.

In Charleston, officials opened parking garages so residents could get their cars upstairs from the impending flood. Forecasters predicted the seventh highest water level in more than 120 years of record-keeping Friday afternoon, 2.7 meters above the average low tide at the city’s port.

Stan Pentz moved out of an Iona neighborhood on Thursday after Hurricane Ian hit Florida. (Andrew West/The News-Press/USA Today Network/Reuters)

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