In the wake of Hurricane Ian, the dangers remain and in some cases are intensifying

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — People kayaking through streets that were passable just a day or two before. Hundreds of thousands without power. National Guard helicopters fly rescue missions to residents still stranded on Florida’s barrier islands.

Days after Hurricane Ian carved a swath of devastation from Florida to the Carolinas, the dangers remained and in some places even increased. It was clear that the road to recovery from this monster storm would be long and painful.

And Ian still wasn’t done. The storm showered Virginia on Sunday, and officials warned of possible severe flooding along the coast that would begin overnight Monday.

Ian’s remains moved offshore, forming a nor’easter that is expected to pile even more water into an already flooded Chesapeake Bay and threatens to become the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in the past 10 years to 15 years, said Cody Poche, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The island city of Chincoteague declared a state of emergency on Sunday, urging residents in certain areas to evacuate. The East Coast and northern portion of North Carolina’s Outer Banks were also likely affected.

At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.

With the death toll mounting, Deanne Criswell, Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government stands ready to help on a large scale, initially focusing on victims in Florida, who took the brunt of one of the strongest storms to land in the U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.

Flooded roads and washed-out bridges to offshore islands left many people isolated amid limited cellphone service and a lack of basic amenities like water, electricity and internet. Officials warned that the situation in many areas will not improve for several days as the rain that has fallen has nowhere to go due to overflowing waterways.

Fewer than 700,000 Florida homes and businesses were still without power late Sunday, compared to a peak of 2.6 million.

Criswell told Fox News Sunday that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and Department of Defense, has “put in place the greatest amount of search and rescue that I believe we have ever put in place.”

However, recovery will take time, said Criswell, who visited the state on Friday and Saturday to assess the damage and speak to survivors. She warned that dangers remain with downed power lines in standing water.

More than 1,600 people were rescued statewide, according to the Florida Disaster Management Agency.

Rescue operations were underway, particularly to Florida’s outlying islands, which were cut off from the mainland as storm surges destroyed dams and bridges.

The state will build a temporary transit passage for the largest, Pine Island, DeSantis said Sunday, adding that an allocation for the Department of Transportation has been approved for construction this week and construction could begin as early as Monday.

“It won’t be a full bridge, you’ll probably have to cross it at 5mph or so, but at least it will allow people to get on and off the island with their vehicles,” the governor told a news conference.

Coast Guard, municipal and private crews have used helicopters, boats and even jet skis to evacuate people in recent days.

In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned waders, boots and bug spray to paddle to their flooded homes on Sunday.

Ben Bertat found four inches of water at his home on Lake Harney after kayaking there.

“I think it’s going to get worse because all the water has to go to the lake,” Bertat said, pointing to the water that was flooding a nearby road. “With soil saturation, this whole swamp is full and just can’t hold any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get any deeper than that.”

Elsewhere, power remained out on at least half of Pawleys Island in South Carolina, a beach community about 75 miles (115 kilometers) upshore from Charleston. The storm downed trees and power lines in North Carolina.


Associated Press Reporter Rebecca Santana in Ft. Myers; Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee; David Fischer in Miami; Sarah Rankin of Richmond, Virginia; and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report. In the wake of Hurricane Ian, the dangers remain and in some cases are intensifying

Dais Johnston

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