Post-tropical Ian lashes South Carolina as death toll rises in Florida
A revived Hurricane Ian pounded coastal South Carolina on Friday, ripping apart piers and flooding streets after the ferocious storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands in their homes and leaving at least 17 people dead.
The powerful storm, estimated to be one of the costliest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S., has terrorized people for much of the week — pummeling western Cuba and raking across Florida.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Ian's center made landfall at 2:05 p.m. ET as a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
It was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone around 4:45 p.m. Friday, but the NHC said the threat of dangerous storm surge, flash flooding and high winds remains.
Ian had sustained winds of 70 mph late Friday afternoon and was moving north at 15 mph. It was forecast to weaken quickly over land.
A Storm Surge Warning remained in effect for parts of the North Carolina coast. A surge of more than 4 feet is possible, which could make travel difficult, FOX Weather reports.
Sheets of rain whipped trees and power lines and left many areas on Charleston’s downtown peninsula under water by midday. Four piers along the coast, including two at Myrtle Beach, collapsed into the churning waves and washed away. Online cameras showed seawater filling neighborhoods in Garden City to calf level.
Photo: Pawley's Island Police
The hurricane warning stretched from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, with flooding likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia, the National Hurricane Center said.
Charleston County emergency services were suspended during the storm because of high winds.
In a tweet, officials said they were pausing response efforts "due to current wind conditions" and would resume service "as soon as it is safe to do so."
Charleston police were also restricting access to the city’s Battery area, a spot at the tip of the peninsula that is home to many multi-million-dollar, historic homes.
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A storm surge of 4 to 7 feet is predicted along the South Carolina coast, including the city of Charleston. A 3- to 5-foot surge is forecast from the South Carolina-North Carolina border to Cape Fear, North Carolina. A storm surge of 3 to 5 feet is also expected from the Savannah River to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.
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National Guard troops were being positioned in South Carolina to help with the aftermath, including any water rescues. And in Washington, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state, a needed step to speed federal assist for recovery once Ian passes.
Ian is expected to weaken rapidly over land, then transition into a post-tropical cyclone on Friday night. It is expected to dissipate over western North Carolina or Virginia by late Saturday.
Hurricane Ian impacts in North Carolina
In North Carolina, heavy rain bands and winds crept into the state Friday afternoon. Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents to be vigilant, given that up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas, with high winds.
"Hurricane Ian is at our door. Expect drenching rain and sustained heavy winds over most of our state," Cooper said. "Our message today is simple: Be smart and be safe."
Hurricane Ian devastates southwest Florida
Ian came ashore Wednesday on Florida's Gulf Coast as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. It flooded homes on both the state's coasts, cut off the only road access to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers.
The confirmed death toll in the aftermath of Ian rose to 17 in the U.S. — officials in Florida fear that number from Hurricane Ian could rise substantially, given the wide swath of the state swamped by the storm.
Many of the deaths reported were drownings, including that of a 68-year-old woman swept away into the ocean by a wave. A 67-year-old man who was waiting to be rescued died after falling into rising water inside his home, authorities said.
Other storm-related fatalities included a 22-year-old woman who died after an ATV rollover from a road washout and a 71-year-old man who fell off a roof while putting up rain shutters. An 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who relied on oxygen machines also died after the equipment stopped working during power outages.
Another three people died in Cuba earlier in the week as the storm churned northward. The death toll was expected to increase substantially once emergency officials have an opportunity to search many of the hardest-hit areas.
By Friday morning, the number of people without power dropped below 2 million, but 99% of Hardy County was without power, and 85% of Charlotte and Lee counties were without power.
READ MORE: Ian brings more damage to Florida's already unstable insurance market
From trees getting ripped out of the ground to signs being ripped apart, traffic lights crashing onto roadways and some buildings simply being destroyed, the impact in southwest Florida was everywhere and almost nothing was spared.
Fort Myers Beach is, quite simply, destroyed. Businesses are gone. Jobs are obviously lost, at least temporarily. The cleanup will take weeks and that will almost certainly have to precede any rebuilding efforts. The damage assessments, and the cleanup, are just beginning.
Flooding was also widespread in the Orlando and Daytona Beach areas on the Atlantic Coast.
Cars are submerged in a flooded street in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on September 29, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Gov. Ron DeSantis said rescue crews have reached more than 3,000 homes since early Thursday.
The state expects more rescues on Friday, and they've launched a standalone website to let family members know you're safe: missing.fl.gov.
Hurricane Ian's storm surge washed a large boat on top of a vehicle damage at Fort Myers Beach on Thursday, September 29, 2022. (Ted Richardson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
In Washington, President Joe Biden said he was directing "every possible action be taken to save lives and get help to survivors."
"It’s going to take months, years to rebuild," Biden said.
"I just want the people of Florida to know, we see what you’re going through and we’re with you."
Cuba still in the dark after Ian
Workers of the Cuban electric company repair power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in El Cerro, Cuba, on September 29, 2022. (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images)
Hurricane Ian struck western Cuba Tuesday night and knocked out all of the island's power grid Tuesday night, leaving its 11 million people in the dark. The storm also left three people dead and caused still unquantified damage.
In addition to power problems Thursday in Havana, internet service was out and cellphones did not work.
A few hundred Cubans took to the streets Thursday night in Havana demanding the restoration of electricity.
FOX Weather and The Associated Press contributed to this report.