Hurricane Ian headed for South Carolina on Friday morning after leaving a path of devastation through Florida, where authorities rushed to assess the damage and reported a death toll that could make the storm deadliest in state history.
At least 21 people have been reported dead as a result of the hurricane in Florida, according to the state’s director of emergency management. Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, knocking down homes and storefronts along the southwest coast with strong winds and rising waters before crossing the Florida peninsula into the Atlantic Ocean.
After weakening into a tropical storm, Ian has since intensified into a Category 1 hurricane. The National Hurricane Center has warned of a “potentially deadly storm surge” when it hits the Carolinas again, while forecasting that severe river flooding in central Florida will last through next week.
On Friday morning, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said 1.9 million customers were still without power and half a dozen health care facilities in the state had been evacuated due to an outage. electricity and running water.
Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest electric utility, said Friday it has restored power to more than one million of its customers, half of those affected by Ian.
The hurricane tore through several areas of the state, inflicting particular damage in Fort Myers on the southwest coast, which was beset by severe flooding, as well as inland areas such as Orlando. Ian also cut the only bridge connecting Sanibel Island to mainland Florida, not far from Fort Myers.
With 21 dead, the storm’s toll is already higher than the direct death toll attributed to Hurricane Andrew, previously Florida’s deadliest cyclone, which claimed 15 lives.
Ian is expected to land in South Carolina on Friday afternoon local time with 85 mph winds and up to a foot of rain. Already, thousands of customers in South Carolina and North Carolina are reporting power outages.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for the Charleston area, while local police have urged residents to limit travel to only “essential travel”.