Hurricane Ian heads north toward the Carolinas after leaving at least 12 dead in Florida

A revived Hurricane Ian set his sights on the coast of South Carolina and the historic city of Charleston on Friday, with forecasters forecasting storm surge and flooding after the storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped people in their homes.

With the entire coast of South Carolina under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, many likely heeding officials’ warnings to seek higher ground.

The shop windows were placed in sandbags to ward off high water levels in an area prone to flooding.

Charleston is particularly at risk; a city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90 percent of all homes were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.

Along the Battery area at the southern tip of the city’s 350-year-old peninsula, locals and tourists alike took selfies against the choppy backdrop of white hoods in Charleston Harbor, where the palm trees curled in the gust of wind.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength over the Atlantic on Thursday night.

The National Hurricane Center predicted it would hit South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.

Families walk along a wooden boardwalk next to oceanfront homes with a gray sky above.
People walk past The Battery as Hurricane Ian winds begin to roll into Charleston Harbor on Thursday.(AP Photo: Meg Kinnard)

The center’s update at 2 a.m. local time placed Ian about 150 miles southeast of Charleston and predicted a “life-threatening storm surge” and hurricane conditions along the Carolina coastal area later that day.

The hurricane warning stretched from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, with flooding rains likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia, the center said.

Rainfall of up to 20 inches threatened flooding from South Carolina to Virginia.

At least 12 dead, houses ripped off plates as Ian leaves Florida

Rescue teams in Florida on Thursday steered boats and waded down river streets to rescue thousands of people trapped amid flooded homes and buildings destroyed by Hurricane Ian.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues were conducted Thursday, mostly by air, involving the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard and urban search and rescue teams.

A woman in a brightly colored helmet and safety vest wades through floodwaters in front of wooden houses.
An Orange County Fire Rescue first responder makes his way through floodwaters searching for residents in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday.(AP Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Ian had made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a monstrous Category Four hurricane, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US.

It flooded homes on both coasts of the state, cut off the only access road to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and cut off electricity for 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utilities. .

Some 2.1 million of those customers were left in the dark for days.

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Aftermath of Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida

The exact death toll remained uncertain, NBC News reported that at least 12 people had died, but CNN estimated the number at 21 Friday morning.

Three other people have also died in Cuba after the hurricane hit there Tuesday.

In the Fort Myers area, the hurricane ripped homes from their slabs and deposited them among shredded wreckage.

Businesses near the beach were completely destroyed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks drifted at odd angles next to damaged boats. Fires smolder on plots where houses once stood.

“I don’t know how anyone could have survived there,” said William Goodison, amid the wreckage of a mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach, where he had lived for 11 years.

Goodison said he was only alive because he rode out the storm at his son’s home inland.

The hurricane ripped through the park from about 60 homes, leaving many destroyed or damaged beyond repair, including Mr. Goodison’s home.

Wading through medium-deep water, he and his son drove two trash cans with what little he could salvage — a portable air conditioner, some tools, and a baseball bat.

A man with windblown hair in a white T-shirt and sunglasses stands next to a destroyed building in bright sunlight.
Robert Leisure oversees his business, Getaway Marina, which was destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Ian.(AP Photo: Rebecca Blackwell)

The road to Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers, and other debris. Cars were left on the road after coming to a stop when the storm surge flooded their engines.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his office struggled to respond to thousands of emergency calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges were impassable.

Emergency services saw through fallen trees to reach stranded people. Many in the worst affected areas were unable to call for help due to electrical and cellular failures.

Part of the Sanibel Causeway also fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island that is home to 6,300 people.

According to climate scientist Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the co-author of a study prepared immediately after the storm, climate change has caused at least 10 percent more rainfall from Hurricane Ian.

A satellite image with some coastlines and US counties highlighted shows a major hurricane off Florida's east coast.
A satellite image taken at 5:01 p.m. Thursday shows Hurricane Ian off the coast of Florida.(Provided through AP: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

National Guard deployed to assist with Carolina aftermath

In Washington, President Joe Biden approved a Florida emergency declaration, a necessary step to accelerate federal aid for recovery once Ian is over.

National Guard troops were positioned in South Carolina to assist with the aftermath, including eventual water rescues.

A tall, elderly white man in a suit speaks on a podium flanked by officials in a room full of FEMA workers at computers.
US President Joe Biden visited FEMA’s headquarters in Washington on Thursday.(AP Photo: Evan Vucci)

The storm was also on track to hit North Carolina later, forecasters said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for torrential rains, high winds and possible power outages.

During a visit to the state emergency center Thursday, Governor Cooper said up to 17.8 inches of rain could fall in some areas, with the possibility of mountain landslides and tornadoes statewide.

AP/Reuters

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