By CURT ANDERSON
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – Hurricane Ian carved a path of destruction throughout Florida, trapping individuals in flooded houses, reducing the one bridge to a barrier island, damaging a hospital from high to backside and knocking out energy to 2.5 million individuals. it rained over an enormous space on Thursday.
One of many strongest hurricanes to ever hit america threatened to trigger catastrophic flooding across the state. Tropical Storm Ian’s winds prolonged outward as much as 415 miles (665 km), soaking a lot of Florida and the southeastern Atlantic coast.
Authorities confirmed not less than one loss of life 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.
One other Florida sheriff mentioned he believed the loss of life toll can be within the “a whole bunch.” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcheno instructed ABC’s “Good Morning America” that roads and bridges remained impassable, stranding hundreds of people that referred to as 911 for rescue within the space that features Fort Myers.
“It blew us away,” Marceno mentioned. “We nonetheless cannot get to lots of people who want it.”
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson instructed NBC’s “Immediately” that he had no reviews of deaths within the metropolis, however that Ian was by far the most important storm he has seen for the reason that Nineteen Seventies.
“Watching the water from my residence within the middle of the middle, the water arising and simply flooding all of the outlets on the bottom flooring, it was heartbreaking,” Anderson mentioned.
A part of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the ocean, reducing off entry to the barrier island, which is often residence to six,300 individuals. It was unimaginable to know what number of heeded the necessary evacuation orders earlier than the storm surge washed over the island.
Emergency crews minimize via downed bushes to succeed in individuals in flooded houses, however with no electrical energy and just about no mobile phone service, many individuals had been unable to name for assist from the hardest-hit coastal areas the place the surge occurred.
“Moveable towers are on the way in which to cell service. Your family members might not have the ability to contact you,” mentioned the sheriff’s workplace in Collier County, which incorporates Naples. “We will inform you that daylight is revealing the results, it should be a tricky day.”
In Fort Myers, Valerie Bartley’s household spent frantic hours fearing the storm would destroy their residence. She and her husband pushed the eating room desk towards the sliding patio doorways to carry it towards the sturdy wind, and he held it in place for 2 hours.
“I used to be scared,” Bartley mentioned. “What we heard was shingles and particles from all around the space hitting our home… It went on for hours. We simply assumed it could tear our home aside.
Because the storm raged outdoors, she mentioned, her 4-year-old daughter grabbed her hand and mentioned, “I am scared too, however it should be okay.”
Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and downed bushes because it slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph (241 km/h) winds. Ian’s energy on the coast was a Class 4, the fifth strongest hurricane, measured by wind pace, to ever hit america.
Ian’s middle got here ashore greater than 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Tampa and St. Petersburg, sparing the densely populated Tampa Bay space from its first direct hit by a significant hurricane since 1921.
The Nationwide Hurricane Middle mentioned Ian weakened to a tropical storm over land early Thursday and is predicted to regain near-hurricane energy after transferring over Atlantic waters close to the Kennedy Area Middle later within the day, with South Carolina in its sights for the second US coastal level.
Parts of the Gulf Coast remained underneath ocean water: “8 to 10 toes of extreme and life-threatening storm surge with damaging waves continues alongside the southwest Florida coast from Englewood to Bonita Seaside, together with Charlotte Harbor.” the middle mentioned on Thursday.
In Port Charlotte, a hospital emergency room flooded and robust winds tore off a part of the roof, sending water down into the intensive care unit. The sickest sufferers — some on ventilators — had been crammed into the center two flooring as employees ready for the arrival of storm victims, Dr. Birgitta Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital.
The Florida Freeway Patrol closed the Florida Turnpike within the Orlando space attributable to important flooding and mentioned the principle artery in the midst of the state will stay closed till the water recedes.
Calls from individuals trapped in flooded houses or from apprehensive relations flooded 911 traces. Pleas had been additionally posted on social media websites, some with movies exhibiting debris-covered water splashing towards the eaves of their houses.
Brittany Hayler, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mom in North Fort Myers, whose residence was flooded with 5 toes (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 method out is in a ship.”
Ian weakened to a tropical storm over land early Thursday, however was anticipated to re-strengthen as soon as its middle strikes throughout the Atlantic Ocean and threaten the South Carolina coast at near-hurricane energy on Friday earlier than transferring inland.
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 transferring towards the Cape at 8 miles per hour (13 kmh), the middle mentioned.
Hurricane warnings had been downgraded to tropical storm warnings throughout the Florida peninsula, and widespread, catastrophic flooding stays, the hurricane middle mentioned. A storm surge of as much as 6 toes (2 meters) was nonetheless forecast alongside each coasts.
“It would not matter what the depth of the storm is. We’re nonetheless anticipating fairly a little bit of rainfall,” Robbie Berg, senior hurricane specialist on the Nationwide Hurricane Middle, instructed The Related Press.
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) might fall in southern Virginia because the storm moved inland over the Carolinas, and the middle mentioned landslides had been attainable within the southern Appalachian Mountains.
However on Wednesday, a ship carrying Cuban migrants sank east of Key West in stormy climate.
The US Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission for 23 individuals 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 tore via Cuba, killing two individuals and knocking out the nation’s energy grid.
The attention of the hurricane made landfall close to Cayo Costa, a barrier island simply west of densely populated Fort Myers. Because it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay.
Greater than 2.5 million Florida houses and companies had been with out energy, in accordance with PowerOutage.us. Most houses and companies in 12 counties had been with out electrical energy.
Sheriff Bull Prummel of Charlotte County, simply north of Fort Myers, issued a “life-saving” curfew from 9 p.m. to six a.m., saying violators might face second-degree misdemeanor fees.
“I’m implementing this curfew as a way to guard the individuals and property of Charlotte County,” Prummel mentioned.
Life-threatening storm surge and hurricane situations had been attainable Thursday and Friday alongside the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the place Ian was anticipated to maneuver inland, dumping extra rain off the coast, the hurricane middle mentioned.
The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia beforehand declared states of emergency.
Related Press contributors embrace 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.