The death toll tops 20 as Florida assesses damage from Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian sped toward South Carolina on Friday after leaving a path of devastation through Florida, where officials scooted to assess the damage and reported a death toll, making the storm the deadliest in state history could.

At least 21 people were reported dead after the hurricane hit Florida, according to the state emergency management director.

Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, tearing down homes and storefronts along the southwest coast with high winds and surging waters before traveling across the Florida peninsula to enter the Atlantic.

After weakening to a tropical storm, Ian regained hurricane strength. The National Hurricane Center warned of a “life-threatening storm surge” as it makes renewed landfall in the Carolinas and forecast severe river flooding in central Florida to continue into next week.

The storm’s toll is already greater than the number of direct deaths attributed to Hurricane Andrew, previously Florida’s deadliest hurricane, which killed 15 people.

On Friday morning, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said 1.9 million customers were still without power and a half-dozen health care facilities had been evacuated because they lacked power and running water.

Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, said on Friday that it had restored power to more than half of those affected, but warned of prolonged outages in the South West as rescue crews “were hampered by widespread flooding, storm surges, downed trees and other debris in the area and on the roads.” “. Some properties were so damaged that they “were unable to safely accept power,” the company said.

The hurricane swept through several regions of the state, causing particular damage in the Fort Myers area, which was hit by severe flooding, and inland areas such as Orlando. Ian also cut the only bridge that connected Sanibel Island to mainland Florida, not far from Fort Myers.

Cities along Florida’s southwest coast are among the fastest growing in the country, with tens of thousands relocating to the area in the past year.

More than 10,000 people moved to the Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples area between 2019 and 2021, according to the US Census, the largest domestic influx to a local metropolitan area in the entire country. The area that includes Orlando received the second largest migration.

Ian was scheduled to make landfall in South Carolina after noon local time on Friday, with winds hitting 85 miles per hour and up to a foot of rain. Thousands of customers in South Carolina and North Carolina are already reporting power outages.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning in the Charleston area, while local police have urged residents to limit their movements to “essential travel”. The death toll tops 20 as Florida assesses damage from Hurricane Ian

Adam Bradshaw

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