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Death toll continues to grow in Hurricane Ian’s wake; heavy floods predicted from Florida to southern Mid-Atlantic

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Hurricane Ian takes aim at Carolina coast on Sept; thirtieth, 2022.

NOAA

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The death toll from Hurricane Ian rose Saturday to greater than 77 as one in all strongest and costliest storms to ever hit the U.S. pushed northward from the Carolinas leaving in its wake a trifecta of misery — dangerous flooding, power outages and big destruction.

Ian, which slammed into Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph winds, was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone after marching across South Carolina and was expected to weaken much more because it moved later Saturday into south-central Virginia before rolling into the mid-Atlantic.

The storm was still wielding maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, based on the National Hurricane Center.

However the NHC also warned of potential flash-flooding each in urban and rural areas across the central Appalachians and the southern Mid-Atlantic region through the weekend in addition to continued record river flooding across parts of Florida.

The 77 confirmed storm-related deaths were recorded in Florida and North Carolina, based on a tally by state officials and an NBC News count. And with rescue efforts ongoing and the floodwater receding in places plagued by wrecked homes, local officials warned the death toll could still rise.

At the very least 1,100 rescues have been made in Florida since Ian made landfall within the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference on Saturday.

“There’s been a fantastic outpouring of support and I’ve seen quite a lot of resilience on this community of those that want to choose themselves up they usually need to get their communities back on their feet,” DeSantis told reporters. “We’ll be here and we’ll be helping every step of the way in which.”

Rear Adm. Brendan McPherson, who commands the Coast Guard in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, told the Today Show on Saturday morning that power outages were complicating rescue efforts as people in affected communities without cellphone service or electricity were temporarily cut off from the remainder of the world. 

First responders with Orange County Fire Rescue check the welfare of residents as they make their way through a flooded neighborhood within the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

Phelan M. Ebenhack | AP

“It’s one in all the largest challenges,” he said. “Immediately after this storm we had seek and find air crews in search of people needing assistance.”

But, McPherson said, a lot of the areas that had been cut off in southwest Florida have now been accessed either by air or by urban search and rescue teams that went door to door by boat.

In Florida, nearly 1.3 million homes and businesses were still without power early Saturday, three days after Ian hit the state.

The dearth of power and water is why Meah Fields, 16, and her family had to depart their Cape Coral home, where they rode out the storm, for Sarasota. The teenager said all of them needed a spot where they may recharge and clean up until electricity is restored within the coastal city.

Aerial video shows Hurricane Ian devastated the Sanibel Island Causeway

As of now, she doesn’t know when they may return home.

Ian was Fields’ first hurricane. Her family evacuated during Irma in 2017 but decided to remain this time because they didn’t think Ian would hit them. In addition they didn’t expect Ian’s ferocity, she said in a phone call Saturday.

“It was truthfully really scary. … My parents were even saying that they never experienced something like this,” she said. “It was hurricane-strength winds for at the least 10 hours.”

Fields, her 14-year-old brother, and her parents hunkered down within the hallway until the storm passed. Except for some missing shingles, the family’s home was spared.

In Fort Myers, which early on bore the brunt of Ian, residents waded through knee-deep water and used canoes and rafts to salvage what possessions they may find from their flooded homes.

“I would like to take a seat within the corner and cry,” Stevie Scuderi told The Associated Press as she shuffled through her mostly destroyed Fort Myers apartment, the mud in her kitchen sticking to her purple sandals. “I do not know what else to do.”

In South Carolina, Ian’s eye got here ashore near Georgetown, a small community along the Winyah Bay about 60 miles north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away parts of 4 piers along the coast, including two that link to the favored tourist town of Myrtle Beach. Greater than 62,000 customers didn’t have power.

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