- Thousands of Floridians trapped between flooded homes and buildings abandoned by Hurricane Ian
- Four people confirmed dead in Florida
- The storm ravaged the park of about 60 homes
Florida: Rescuers operated boats and wade through submerged streets on Thursday (Sept. 29) to rescue thousands of Floridians trapped between flooded homes and broken buildings left by Hurricane Ian, which crossed into the Atlantic Ocean and Headed to South Carolina.
Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center predicted that it would affect South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane Friday, with winds of 80 mph (129 kph) near midnight Thursday.
The devastation in Florida came into focus a day after Ian hit as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the US, flooded homes on both coasts of the state, A barrier cut off the only road access to the island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and put 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses out of power—nearly a quarter of utility customers.
Four people have been confirmed dead in Florida. They include two residents of hard-hit Sanibel Island along Florida’s west coast, Sanibel city manager Dana Souza said late Thursday. Three other people are reported to have been killed after a storm that hit Cuba on Tuesday.
In the Fort Myers area, homes were cut from their slabs and shredded rubble was deposited. Businesses near the beach were completely destroyed, leaving debris. Broken docks swam at odd angles next to damaged boats and ignited where houses once stood.
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived there,” said William Goodison among the rubble at Mobile Home Park in Fort Myers Beach. Goodison rode out the storm at her son’s inland home.
The storm ravaged the park of about 60 homes, many of them destroyed or beyond repair, including Goodison’s single-span home. Wandering through waist-deep water, Goodison and his son wheeled two trash cans into which little he could save—a portable air conditioner, some tools, and a baseball bat.
The road to Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. The cars were left on the road, stopped when a storm wave flooded their engines.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at least 700 people have been rescued so far, most of them by air and involving the US Coast Guard, National Guard and urban search and rescue teams.
After leaving Florida as a tropical storm on Thursday and entering the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral, Ian turned into a hurricane again with winds of 75 mph (120 kph).
A Hurricane Warning was issued for the South Carolina coast and extended to Cape Fear on the southeast coast of North Carolina. With tropical storm-force winds reaching about 415 miles (665 km) from its center, Ian was forecast to have a storm surge of 5 feet (1.5 m) over the coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas. There is a risk of flooding from South Carolina to Virginia with up to 8 inches (20 cm) of rain.
National Guard troops were being deployed to South Carolina to help with the latter, including any water rescue. A steady stream of vehicles swept through the 350-year-old city of Charleston on Thursday afternoon.
The sheriff in southwest Florida said there were thousands of stranded callers at 911 centers, some of whom were life-threatening. DeSantis said the US Coast Guard launched rescue efforts hours before daylight on the barrier islands where Ian had attacked. More than 800 federal urban search-and-rescuers were also in the area.
In the Orlando area, Orange County firefighters used boats to reach people in flooded neighborhoods. Patients from a nursing home were carried on stretchers to a bus in flood waters.
In Fort Myers, Valerie Bartley’s family spent desperate hours holding a dining room table against the patio door, fearing the storm was “separating our house.”
“I was scared,” said Bartley. “What we heard was shingles and debris from everything in the neighborhood that hit our house.”
Bartley said the storm tore the patio screen and tore down a palm tree in the yard, but left the roof intact and no damage to his family.
Long lines at gas stations and Home Depot hardware stores in Fort Myers let in a few customers at a time.
Frank Pino was at the back of the line, with about 100 people in front of him.
“I hope they leave some,” said Pino, “because I need almost everything.”
Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said a 72-year-old man in Deltona died after falling into a canal while using a hose to drain his pool in heavy rain. A 38-year-old man from Lake County died in an accident on Wednesday after his vehicle capsized, according to officials.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said her office was scrambling to answer thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges were impassable.
Emergency workers looked through fallen trees to reach those trapped. Many of the worst-hit areas were unable to call for help due to power and cellular outages.
Part of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to Barrier Island where 6,300 people live.
The historic beach pier in Naples, south of Sanibel Island, was destroyed, even as piles were torn apart. “Right now, there are no ferries,” said Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor.
In Port Charlotte, a hospital emergency room was flooded and strong winds ripped off a section of the roof, flooding the intensive care unit. Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital said the sickest patients – some on ventilators – crowded the middle two floors as staff prepared to arrive for hurricane victims.
Ian hit Florida with gusts of 150 mph (241 kph), tying it for the fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the US.
While scientists generally avoid blaming climate change for specific storms without detailed analysis, Ian’s water ravages are what scientists predict for a warmer world: stronger and wetter storms, though not necessarily more of them. .
“This occupation is the very, very heavy rain that we expected to see because of climate change,” said Kerry Emanuel, an MIT atmospheric scientist. “We’ll see more storms like Ian.”
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