on Thursday 29 September, 2022

‘Substantial loss of life’ possible in Florida as Tropical Storm Ian now takes aim at South Carolina

by : CNN

Hurricane Ian’s vicious combination of winds, rain and storm surge caused at least a dozen deaths, flooded homes, cut off roadways and left millions of Florida residents without power Thursday.

And the storm’s path of destruction is not over. Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon in southwest Florida and has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but the storm is dropping heavy rain on central and northeast Florida throughout Thursday. Ian is forecast to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane and make a second landfall in South Carolina on Friday, the National Hurricane Center said.

In southwest and central Florida, at least 15 people were reported dead so far due to the storm.

The death toll in Charlotte County, Florida, was at least eight or nine, Charlotte County Commissioner Joseph Tiseo told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Thursday afternoon. About five people are believed to have died in Lee County, the sheriff there said.

One person who was in hospice care died in Osceola County, Emergency Management Director Bill Litton said. And a 72-year-old man in Deltona died overnight after going outside to drain his swimming pool during the storm, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” President Joe Biden said Thursday. “The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”

Survey crews, photos and videos of the region show collapsed buildings, flooding, downed power lines and impassable roads, including a key bridge connecting Sanibel and Captiva islands to Florida’s mainland that has been washed out. More than 2.6 million electric customers have no power Thursday, according to PowerOutage.US, and some drinking water systems have broken down completely or have boil notices in effect.

“I just literally got out of a helicopter where I was able to take a complete tour of the entire county and there’s really no words that I can say to tell you what I’ve seen,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcino said on CNN Thursday. “The Fort Myers Beach area, buildings, major, major homes and buildings completely washed away with vehicles in the water, vehicles in the bay, boats are upside down.”

There are many people who need to be rescued in southwest Florida’s Fort Myers area, FEMA chief Deanne Criswell said Thursday morning. The nearby Naples area was similarly slammed, with feet of water submerged streets, nearly swallowing vehicles and rushing into the first floors of homes and businesses.

The Coast Guard and National Guard were “pulling people off of roofs in Fort Myers” with aircraft Thursday morning, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson told CNN. Coast Guard crews have conducted 28 rescues on Thursday, the service said.

The rescue efforts come a day after Ian came ashore near Cayo Costa as a Category 4 hurricane as one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall on Florida’s west coast. The storm has since weakened to a tropical storm with 70 mph sustained winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm cut a path from near Fort Myers in the southwest across to the eastern part of the state, and its combination of wind, rain and storm surge caused flooding that Gov. Ron DeSantis called “a 500-year flood event.”

Here are the latest developments:

• Downgraded to a tropical storm: Ian weakened to a tropical storm Thursday with winds of 70 mph, and the center of the storm was about 40 miles northeast of Cape Canaveral around 2 p.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center said. Based on wind speed, Ian tied with 2004’s Hurricane Charley as the strongest storm to make landfall on the west coast of the Florida Peninsula, both with 150-mph winds at landfall.

• Hurricane warnings for South Carolina: Hurricane warnings are in place for the entire coast of South Carolina. In addition, Tropical Storm warnings are in place from Jupiter, Florida, up the east coast to Duck, North Carolina.

• Record-high storm surges: Ian’s storm surge hit up to 12 feet in some places in western Florida. On Thursday morning, a storm surge warning – meaning life-threatening surges could hit – was in place for a coastal stretch from northeastern Florida into an area north of Charleston, South Carolina.

• More than a foot of rainfall: Lehigh Acres near Fort Myers got 14.42 inches of rain, and Warm Mineral Springs near Port Charlotte got 11.05 inches. Up to 30 inches of rain may have fallen in parts of Florida by storm’s end, forecasters say.