Ian whips South Carolina while Florida investigates devastation

CHARLESTON, SC (AP) — A revived Hurricane Ian made landfall on the South Carolina coast on Friday, threatening the historic city of Charleston with severe flooding after the deadly storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped thousands in their homes.

Ian’s center made landfall near Georgetown in much weaker winds than when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday in one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States

Rain showers battered trees and power lines, submerging many areas on the peninsula in downtown Charleston. Parts of the piers at North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island collapsed in the turbulent waves and were washed away.

Ian left a wide swath of destruction in Florida, flooding areas on both coasts, ripping houses off their panels, destroying beachfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power. At least nine people have been confirmed dead in the US – a number expected to rise as officials confirm more deaths and search for people.

Rescue teams steered boats and waded through river streets on Thursday to rescue thousands of people trapped between flooded homes and destroyed buildings.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that crews went door-to-door to over 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.

“It was really a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Among those killed were an 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who were dependent on oxygen equipment that stopped working during power outages, and a 67-year-old man who was awaiting rescue and died after falling into rising water in his home, authorities said.

Officials fear the death toll could rise significantly given the vast territory inundated by the storm.

Florida Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie said responders had so far focused on “hasty” searches aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, which would be followed by two more waves of searches. First responders who come across possible remains leave them without confirmation, he said on Friday, describing the case of a submerged house as an example.

“The water was above the roof, yes, but we had a Coast Guard lifeguard swim in and he could tell it was human remains. We don’t know exactly how many,” Guthrie said.

According to a study done immediately after the storm, climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian, said its co-author, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab climate scientist Michael Wehner.

Orlando residents returned to their flooded homes Friday, rolling up their pants to wade through muddy, knee-high water on their streets. Friends of Ramon Rodriguez delivered ice, bottled water and hot coffee at the entrance to his subdivision, where 10 of the 50 homes were flooded and the street looked like a lake. He had no electricity or food in his house and his car was trapped in the water.

“There’s water everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “The situation here is pretty bad.”

Students at the University of Central Florida, who live in an apartment complex near the Orlando campus, came to take belongings from their sodden units.

Deandra Smith, a nursing student, slept when others were evacuated and stayed in her third-floor apartment with her dog. Other students helped her get her to shore Friday by pushing her on a pontoon through the flooded parking lot. She wasn’t sure whether to return to her childhood home in South Florida or seek somewhere to stay so she can continue attending classes. “I’m still trying to figure it out,” she said.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida Peninsula, Ian regained his strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. Ian landed in South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). When it hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was a powerful Category 4 hurricane traveling at 150 mph.

After the heaviest rain swept through Charleston, Will Shalosky examined a large elm tree in front of his home that had fallen on his downtown street. He found the damage could have been far worse.

“If that tree had fallen any other way, it would have been in our house,” Shalosky said. “It’s pretty scary, pretty upsetting.”

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he was ordering “every possible action to save lives and assist survivors.”

“Rebuilding will take months, years,” Biden said.

“I just want the people of Florida to know that we’re seeing what you’re going through and we’re with you.”

https://www.wfla.com/news/florida/ian-lashes-south-carolina-as-florida-surveys-devastation/ Ian whips South Carolina while Florida investigates devastation

Russell Falcon

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