Thousands of Floridians were stuck amid flooded homes and destroyed buildings left by Hurricane Ian, which crossed into the Atlantic Ocean and churned toward South Carolina. Rescue workers sailed boats and waded through flooded streets to save them on Thursday.
While passing the Florida peninsula, Ian lost hurricane strength for several hours before regaining it Thursday night over the Atlantic. With gusts reaching 80 mph (129 kph) just after midnight on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center estimated it will make landfall in South Carolina on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.
A day after Ian, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States and a huge Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Florida, the extent of the destruction became clear. It damaged a historic waterfront pier, flooded residences on both the state’s coasts, cut off the only road access to a barrier island, and knocked off electricity to 2.67 million homes and businesses in Florida—nearly a quarter of all utility customers. In Florida, there were four confirmed casualties.
According to Sanibel City Manager Dana Souza, they included two citizens of the hard-hit Sanibel Island, which is located off the west coast of Florida. After the hurricane that hit on Tuesday in Cuba, three more fatalities were recorded there.
Homes had been torn from their slabs and dumped amidst the shredded debris in the Fort Myers region. Businesses close to the beach were entirely demolished and left in a twisted state. Fires smoldered on lots where buildings formerly stood, and broken docks drifted at weird angles alongside broken boats.
William Goodison, who had lived in the Fort Myers Beach mobile home park for 11 years, stated in the midst of the devastation, “I don’t see how anyone could have survived in there.” At his son’s house in the country, Goodison survived the storm.
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About 60 homes made up of a park were demolished or severely damaged by the hurricane, including Goodison’s single-wide house. Goodison and his son pushed two garbage cans filled with the meager items he was able to save—a small air conditioner, some tools, and a baseball bat—across waist-deep water.
Broken trees, boat trailers, and other trash were all along the road leading into Fort Myers. After stalling due to the storm surge flooding their engines, cars were left in the road abandoned.
According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and urban search-and-rescue teams have participated in at least 700 rescues so far, the majority of which have been accomplished by air.
Thursday, Ian entered the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral as a tropical storm after departing Florida as a hurricane. Ian’s winds increased to 75 mph (120 kph). The southeast coast of North Carolina, Cape Fear, and the coast of South Carolina were all under a hurricane warning. Ian was expected to push a storm surge of 5 feet (1.5 meters) over coastal areas in Georgia and the Carolinas, with tropical storm force winds extending outward from its core to a distance of around 415 miles (665 kilometers). From South Carolina to Virginia, rainfall of up to 8 inches (20 cm) threatened to cause flooding.
In South Carolina, National Guard personnel were being prepared to assist with the aftermath, including any water rescues. Charleston, a 350-year-old city, saw a steady stream of vehicles leave on Thursday afternoon.
Sheriffs in southwest Florida said that thousands of stranded callers, some with life-threatening problems, flooded 911 centers. Hours before dawn, the U.S. Coast Guard launched rescue operations on barrier islands close to the scene of Ian’s strike, according to DeSantis. There were also more than 800 federal urban search and rescue personnel nearby.
Orange County firemen in the Orlando area utilized boats to reach residents of a flooded neighborhood. Stretchers were used to transport nursing home patients to buses across floodwaters.
The family of Valerie Bartley in Fort Myers frantically held a dining room table against the patio door for hours because they thought the storm “was tearing our house apart.” Bartley said, “I was afraid. What we heard was the neighborhood’s shingles and other debris hitting our house. Bartley claimed that while the storm destroyed a palm tree in the yard and tore up patio screens, the roof was unscathed, and her family was uninjured.
In Fort Myers, long lines started to form at the gas stations, and a Home Depot hardware store opened, admitting a small number of consumers at a time.
Frank Pino was around 100 people in front of the person in front of him at the back of the queue.
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Pino said, “I need nearly everything, so I hope they leave something.”
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported that a 72-year-old man from Deltona died after he fell into a canal while using a hose to drain his pool during the torrential downpour. Authorities report that a Lake County man, 38, was killed in an accident on Wednesday after his car hydroplaned. Thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers region were being responded to quickly, according to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, although many roads and bridges were impassable.
To reach stranded persons, rescue workers cut through fallen trees. Due to electrical and cellular failures, many people in the most severely affected areas were unable to call for assistance.
Sanibel Causeway was partially destroyed as it slid into the water, blocking access to the barrier island’s 6,300 residents. Naples’ ancient seaside pier was damaged, including the pilings ripped out, to the south of Sanibel Island. Penny Taylor, a commissioner for Collier County, stated that there is currently no pier.
In Port Charlotte, the emergency room of a hospital flooded, and strong winds tore off a portion of the roof, letting water pour into the intensive care unit. As the staff prepared for storm victims to arrive, the sickest patients—some on ventilators—were crammed into the middle two levels, according to Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Ian’s winds of 150 mph (241 kph) in Florida linked it with the fifth-strongest hurricane to ever strike the United States.
Ian’s watery devastation fits what scientists have projected for a warmer world: bigger and wetter hurricanes, albeit not necessarily more of them. While scientists normally avoid attributing specific storms to climate change without thorough investigation, Ian’s watery devastation does so.
According to MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel, “This business about very, very heavy rain is what we’ve expected to see due to climate change.” “More storms like Ian will occur.”
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