Hurricane Ian approaches Carolina after Florida reports 21 deaths

FORT MYERS, Fla., Sept. 30 (Reuters) – Hurricane Ian swept away on Friday after a road of damage cut across the Florida peninsula, washed away homes, collapsed a causeway and stranded thousands of people. A violent attack on South Carolina. State’s Gulf Coast.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the state’s emergency management department, said at a morning briefing that the hurricane killed at least 21 people in Florida with confirmed or unconfirmed deaths. This is the first time state officials have provided casualty estimates.

Ian, which weakened to a tropical storm as it moved through Florida, was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday as it headed toward South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported. State Mobile. ) Say.

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The hurricane is expected to hit low-lying Charleston north of low-lying Charleston around 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) on Friday, bringing potentially life-threatening flooding, storm surge and high winds. Hundreds of miles of coastline are under hurricane warnings from Georgia to North Carolina.

Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina urged residents to prepare for dangerous situations.

All were ordered off roads Friday morning in Charleston, South Carolina and Charleston County, with the Charleston International Airport closed due to high winds.

Charleston County, which has more than 400,000 residents, has two shelters open and a third on standby, said Kelsey Barlow, a spokeswoman for the county.

“But it’s too late for people to come to shelter. The storm is coming. Everyone needs to shelter in place and stay off the road,” Barlow said.

Barlow said a storm surge of more than 7 feet is expected, and a midday high tide could bring another 6 feet of water, causing massive flooding.

Still hours away from the center of the storm, heavy rain has reached Charleston. Footage on social media showed inches of water in some streets in the historic port city, which is particularly prone to flooding.

Charleston in particular is at risk. A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that approximately 90 percent of residential properties are vulnerable to storm surge flooding. Parts of northeastern South Carolina near Charleston could also experience up to 8 inches of rain.

Even so, the expected storm surge was not as severe as the NHC issued as the storm approached Florida. Edisto Beach, South Carolina, a resort about 30 miles south of Charleston, is expected to see a surge of 4 to 7 feet. That compares with a 12-foot surge reported earlier this week in parts of the Gulf Coast.

‘Big shock’

Two days after Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast for the first time as one of the strongest storms ever to hit the continental U.S., the extent of the damage there became increasingly evident.

“Obviously, it’s a huge shock,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the briefing.

“The response was very, very fast,” he said. “I do think the response makes a difference.”

About 10,000 people are unaccounted for, but many of them may be in shelters or without electricity, making it impossible to contact loved ones or local officials, Guthrie said. He said he expected that number to decrease “organically” in the coming days.

Fort Myers, a city near the eye of the storm that made landfall for the first time, took a major hit, with many homes destroyed by 150-mph winds and a powerful storm surge. Offshore, Sanibel Island, a popular destination for holidaymakers and retirees, was cut off when the causeway became impassable.

Hundreds of struggling Fort Myers residents lined up at the Home Depot, which opened on the city’s east side early Friday, hoping to buy gas tanks, generators, bottled water and anything else they needed to survive. The line extends 100 yards.

Many said they believed city and state governments were doing everything possible to help people, but said a lack of communication and uncertainty about how they would live in the area was weighing on them.

Sarah Sodre-Crot and Marco Martins are a married couple, both 22, who emigrated from Brazil with their families five years ago in search of a better life than they had in their homeland. They weathered the storm at their home east of Fort Myers.

“I know the government is doing what it can, but we feel lost like we don’t have answers. Will the energy come back in a week? In a month? We just want to know so we can plan our lives,” Sodre-Crot said.

About 1.99 million homes and businesses remained without power on Friday, according to tracking service Ian has affected more than 3.3 million customers since Wednesday’s attack.

Ian first made landfall on Cayo Costa Barrier Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (241 kph).

read more:

Map – Hurricane Ian hitting the Gulf Coast

Drone video shows boats washed ashore after Hurricane Ian

Florida town rebuilt after a hurricane

Hurricane hunter says Ian’s eyewall flight is ‘the worst I’ve ever been’

How hurricanes cause dangerous, damaging storm surges

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Reporting by Brad Brooks; Additional reporting by Rich McKay, Brendan O’Brien and Frank McGurty; Writing by Brendan O’Brien and Frank McGurty; Editing by Mark Porter

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