By CURT ANDERSON
ST. Hurricane Ian devastated a cross part of Florida, trapping folks in flooded properties, forcing sufferers out of nursing properties and hospitals, chopping off a well-liked barrier island and destroying a historic waterfront pier. Practically 2.7 million folks misplaced energy, rain fell and water rose.
Flood waters rose to waist-high close to Orlando, far inland, as one of many strongest hurricanes to ever hit america crossed the peninsula. Tropical Storm Ian’s winds prolonged outward as much as 415 miles (665 km), soaking a lot of Florida and the southeastern Atlantic coast.
“It blew us away,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcheno advised ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He mentioned roads and bridges stay impassable, with 1000’s of individuals stranded within the space the place Ian made landfall simply north of Fort Myers. “We nonetheless cannot get to lots of people who want it.”
Authorities confirmed not less than one demise from the storm in Florida, a 72-year-old Deltona man who fell right into a canal whereas utilizing a hose to empty his pool throughout heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Workplace mentioned. Two folks died in Cuba after Ian struck there.
Marceno mentioned that whereas he lacked any particulars, he believed the demise toll could be within the “lots of.” Gov. Ron DeSantis later mentioned the toll had not been confirmed and was seemingly an estimate based mostly on 911 calls.
President Joe Biden formally issued a catastrophe declaration Thursday, and Federal Emergency Administration Company Administrator Deanna Criswell mentioned the company was supporting search and rescue efforts. The U.S. Coast Guard additionally started rescue efforts in southwest Florida’s barrier islands early Thursday as soon as the winds died down, DeSantis mentioned.
“The Coast Guard had individuals who had been in attics and had been rescued from roofs,” DeSantis mentioned. “We have by no means seen a storm this huge … The quantity of water that has risen and can seemingly proceed to rise in the present day, even because the storm passes, is basically a 500-year flood occasion.”
A part of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the ocean, chopping off entry to the barrier island, which is generally residence to six,300 folks. It was not recognized what number of heeded the obligatory evacuation orders earlier than storm surges hit the island.
South of Sanibel, excessive waves destroyed Naples’ historic seashore pier, uprooting even the pilings beneath it. “There isn’t a dock proper now,” mentioned Penny Taylor, a commissioner in Collier County, which incorporates Naples.
Emergency crews sawed via downed bushes to achieve flooded properties, however with no electrical energy and nearly no cellphone service, many individuals had been unable to name for assist because the surge stuffed their dwelling rooms.
“Moveable towers are on the way in which to cell service. Your family members could not be capable to contact you,” mentioned the sheriff’s workplace in Collier County, which incorporates Naples. “We will let you know that daylight is revealing the results, it will be a troublesome day.”
In Fort Myers, Valerie Bartley was terrified as her household spent frantic hours holding a eating room desk in opposition to their patio door as particles crashed into their residence.
“We simply assumed it was going to tear our home aside,” she mentioned. Because the storm raged outdoors, she mentioned her 4-year-old daughter grabbed her hand and mentioned, “I am scared too, however it will be okay.”
Ian made landfall close to Cayo Costa, a barrier island simply west of densely populated Fort Myers, on Wednesday as a Class 4 hurricane with 150 mph (241 km/h) winds, the fifth-strongest hurricane measured by wind pace. to strike in america
Ian’s heart made landfall greater than 100 miles south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing them the primary direct hit by a significant hurricane since 1921. Water from Tampa Bay drained because it approached, then returned with a surge.
The Nationwide Hurricane Heart mentioned Ian was anticipated to regain near-hurricane power after churning over Atlantic waters close to Cape Canaveral, with South Carolina in its sights for a second landfall on the US coast on Friday.
NASA’s Kennedy Area Heart remained closed and off limits aside from a small subject journey group that spent the evening there. In the meantime, SpaceX’s subsequent astronaut launch to the Worldwide Area Station has been delayed till not less than Oct. 5, a two-day delay due to Ian.
Ocean waters receded after the storm unleashed damaging waves in downtown areas from Englewood to Bonita Seaside, together with Charlotte Harbor and Fort Myers. Cities from Orlando to Daytona Seaside in northwest Florida skilled extreme flooding earlier than Ian moved out to sea.
Paramedics carried residents from the Avante Orlando nursing residence on stretchers and wheelchairs via floodwaters to ambulances and ready buses Thursday morning. A hospital system in southwest Florida evacuated not less than 1,200 sufferers as a consequence of an absence of protected consuming water. In Port Charlotte, staff herded sufferers into the center two flooring after the emergency division flooded and the wind tore off the roof of the intensive care unit.
The Florida Freeway Patrol closed the Florida Turnpike within the Orlando space as a consequence of vital flooding and mentioned the primary artery in the course of the state will stay closed till the water recedes.
Calls from folks trapped in flooded properties or from frightened family flooded 911 traces. Pleas had been additionally posted on social media websites, some with movies exhibiting debris-covered water splashing in opposition to the eaves of their properties.
Brittany Hayler, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mom in North Fort Myers, whose residence was flooded with 5 ft (1.5 meters) of water.
“We do not know when the water’s going to recede. We do not understand how they are going to get out, their vehicles are wrecked,” Heiler mentioned. “Her solely manner out is in a ship.”
One other boat carrying Cuban migrants sank in stormy climate east of Key West on Wednesday.
The US Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission for 23 folks and managed to seek out three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the Florida Keys, officers mentioned. 4 different Cubans swam to Inventory Island, simply east of Key West, the US Border Patrol mentioned. Air crews continued to seek for maybe 20 remaining migrants.
Earlier, the storm killed two folks in Cuba and knocked out the nation’s energy grid.
Greater than 2.5 million Florida properties and companies had been with out energy, based on PowerOutage.us. Most properties and companies in 12 counties had been with out electrical energy.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the storm was about 40 miles (70 km) east of Orlando and 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Cape Canaveral, packing most sustained winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) and shifting towards the Cape at 8 miles per hour (13 kmh), the middle mentioned.
As much as a foot (30 centimeters) of rain is forecast for northeast Florida, coastal Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry. As a lot as 6 inches (15 centimeters) may fall in southern Virginia because the storm moved inland over the Carolinas, and the middle mentioned landslides had been doable within the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia beforehand declared states of emergency.
Related Press contributors embody Christina Mesquita in Havana, Cuba; Cody Jackson and Adriana Gomez Licon in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Mike Schneider Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein and Aamer Madhani in Washington; Bobby Kane Calvan in New York; Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama and Alina Hartonian in Phoenix, Arizona.