‘We are facing a tragedy’: Charlotte County official says much more assistance is needed
Drone video shows catastrophic damage in Florida
- The latest: Hurricane Ian made landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina, as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday, two days after it slammed into the southwestern coast of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.
- Ian is now a post-tropical cyclone that is tracking into North Carolina and Virginia.
- Fatal impact: At least 45 people have been reported dead so far due to the storm. Search and rescue efforts are underway in the worst-hit areas of Florida.
- Tracking Ian: You can track the storm’s path here or sign up for email alerts from CNN meteorologists here.
- In the storm’s path? Bookmark CNN’s lite site for fast connectivity. Sigue nuestra cobertura en vivo en español aquí.
Our live coverage has ended. Read more about the storm system and its impact in the posts below.
Nurse Tonya McCullough was on her way to work for an overnight shift at a Downtown Orlando hospital when her car got stuck in the floodwaters as Hurricane Ian passed through early Thursday morning.
WESH reporter Tony Atkins and his camera operator who were nearby jumped into action, picking up McCullough, carrying her from the car and helping her escape.
“The fact that he was there — I know that was God because it was dark. There were no police cars or ambulances or fire trucks. There was no one else around to help me at that moment and he was available immediately,” McCullough told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Friday night.
After the rescue, McCullough still worked a 16-hour shift and was able to meet up with Atkins on Friday morning.
“It was so emotional to see him because I did not get the opportunity to express my thanks and gratefulness and let him know he was my hero, my champion, my knight in shining armor,” she said.
Watch the rescue caught on camera:
Charlotte County is in desperate need of help despite the assistance it has already received following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, according to Claudette Smith, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
The county in southwest Florida is home to the city of Punta Gorda.
Smith described the situation as a national disaster with many people without homes or surviving without electricity or water supplies. “We are facing a tragedy,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Friday.
“We need everything, to put it plain and simple. We need everything. We need all hands on deck,” Smith said. “The people who have come to our assistance have been tremendously helpful, but we do need everything.”
The only operating hospital in the county is overwhelmed and not accepting new patients, — something Smith said was “devastating” for the area.
The county sheriff’s information officer said residents should still call 911 if there is an emergency.
“Our medical professionals in Charlotte County are going to be able to find those services. They’re not going to turn you away,” she said. “If they have to triage you in the ambulance, they’re going to do so, and they’re also transporting people out of the county to those medical facilities.”
The death toll from Hurricane Ian has climbed to at least 45 after the Medical Examiners Commission of Florida identified three additional deaths in three counties.
This brings CNN’s count to at least 45 storm-related deaths attributable to the storm system that crashed ashore on Wednesday, based on a combination of state and county reporting.
Friday morning Gov. Ron DeSantis listed 21 deaths in various counties. A number of counties have since updated their numbers.
Damage to homes on Fort Myers Beach seen on September 29.
Kevin Behen, a resident of Fort Myers Beach, described on Friday the nightmare experience for him and many his friends when the storm surge propelled by Hurricane Ian crashed ashore on the community in southwest Florida.
“I saw it all happen. Houses are floating in the back bay, people are on their roofs,” Behen told CNN, estimating the storm surge on Wednesday got up to 25 feet high.
He noted “Everybody is going through a real bad time now. But it’s unimaginable to see 25 feet of water come rushing through. It was like a dam broke. It was taking everything.”
Behan said he was able to get out of his home and into a solid building because he “knew something was going to go wrong” — but he said many other people were not as lucky.
“What I saw is just heart-breaking, and all the friends I lost and everybody else — the stories are horrific. It’s a nightmare. This island is destroyed,” Behen said.
At least 45 people have been reported dead so far due to the storm across the state. Search and rescue efforts are underway in the worst-hit areas of Florida.
Port Tampa Bay has reopened and is returning to normal operation, according to a statement from the port, saying it has been “cleared to resume all vessel operations.”
The docks, wharfs and terminals have been fully assessed, the statement said, and commercial vessel traffic is being queued for a return to full operation.
“Few people understand the full impact a seaport has on their daily lives until a crisis hits,” said Paul Anderson, Port Tampa Bay President and CEO.
Anderson said the port provides more than $17 billion in economic impact and “touches some 85,000 jobs in our community.”
“Additionally, our port serves as a major energy gateway, providing nearly half of Florida with its fuel supply,” according to Anderson.
Residents of Sanibel Island are moved to a waiting US Coast Guard helicopter on Friday, September 30.
The US Coast Guard has rescued more than 275 people in Florida, according to Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, but the post-storm conditions remain a huge challenge.
He noted that hundreds of other rescues were being performed by urban search and rescue teams from FEMA and local and state agencies.
“We’re flying and we’re operating in areas that are unrecognizable. There’s no street signs. They don’t look like they used to look like. Buildings that were once benchmarks in the community are no longer there,” he told CNN on Friday.
McPherson said the Coast Guard is treating the storm aftermath like a military operation by searching block by block to make sure those who need assistance are helped.
“What we are finding is that many of the people are not critically injured and they’re not in immediate distress, but they’re stranded,” he said. “They’re stuck on islands, either man-made islands that have been there for some time that are surrounded by water, but more importantly, those areas that weren’t islands before and now they are surrounded by water,” he said.
A US Coast Guard helicopter is seen amid stranded shrimp boats in a marina in Fort Myers Beach, Florida on Friday.
An aerial view of damaged properties after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
The mayor of Fort Myers Beach said residents may be allowed reentry on Monday.
“So that’s a date we can shoot for. We don’t want to keep anybody off any longer than we have to,” Mayor Ray Murphy said in a Facebook post.
The mayor said the community — located on Estero Island in Lee County, Florida — took a hard hit from Hurricane Ian.
“There’s a lot of devastation down here,” he said. “The good news is, is that the island is crawling with emergency people right now.”
Crews are working to clear roadways, and search and rescue teams are searching neighborhoods, the mayor said.
“There is no way to sugar coat it – there’s just a hell of a lot to do down here. But we’re up to the task,” Murphy added.
Elections officials in portions of Florida hard hit by Hurricane Ian are scrambling to meet a fast-approaching deadline to begin sending out absentee ballots and are working to develop contingency plans for November’s general election.
In Lee County, Florida – home to Fort Myers, which saw homes and businesses torn apart and flooded this week by the powerful storm – Elections Supervisor Tommy Doyle said the county’s election equipment and voting material survived Ian, but his facilities lack power.
An immediate priority, he told CNN on Friday, was ensuring that the county would meet the Oct. 6 deadline under state law to mail out about 180,000 absentee ballots to Florida residents who already have requested them. The Bonita Springs, Florida, vendor handling the work already had completed about half the project when the storm hit, Doyle said, but currently lacks electrical power to finish the job.
If the power is not restored by Sunday, Doyle said he plans to shift the work to the East Coast of the state in an effort to meet the deadline.
Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley, who is president of the state association for Florida’s 67 election supervisors, said counties affected by the hurricane are still “assessing the situation,” but said their main offices and warehouses “survived intact and remarkably well.”
Officials, however, will have to come up with contingency plans, especially in Lee County, for in-person voting later this fall, following the likely destruction of polling places, he said.
Earley said those options include establishing consolidated voting centers and encouraging Floridians displaced by the storm to vote by mail. Oct. 29 is the deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot in Florida.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be expanding the number of Florida counties where residents will be eligible for federal help, the top administrator said Friday.
“We will add more counties for assistance,” Deanne Criswell said at a news conference in St. Augustine following a storm damage tour. The work to identify which counties need help is ongoing, she said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was also at the news conference, said the state is asking for more help from FEMA, saying that Hurricane Ian impacted more communities than first anticipated.
“When they meander across the peninsula, you’re hitting all these different communities, and there’s a lot of impacts that have a trickle effect all across the state,” DeSantis said.
Currently, 13 Florida counties — mostly in southwest and central Florida — are eligible for individual assistance through FEMA.
Vehicles and homes are submerged in a flooded neighborhood following Hurricane Ian in Orlando on Friday, September 30.
Orlando officials are encouraging residents to stay out of flooded waterways following Hurricane Ian and restrict how much water they use.
This includes tasks such as doing laundry, washing dishes, taking showers or baths and flushing toilets.
The city said its wastewater treatment plant is currently operating above capacity, according to a statement.
“Additional water usage like this will put more pressure on these systems and could lead to sewage overflows,” the statement said.
Shelters in Charleston County, South Carolina, will remain open until 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, officials said in a statement.
Buses will start taking people from the shelters back to the original pick-up locations Saturday morning, it said, adding that crews are out accessing the damage in the county.
The area will move into “OPCON 2” status at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, it said — meaning there will be enhanced awareness across the county, according to its website.
“A lot of prayers have been answered,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a tweet on Friday.
“This storm is not as bad as it could have been, but don’t let your guard down yet. We are not out of the woods, there is water on the roads, still heavy winds, and it is still dangerous in many parts of the state,” he said.
Ian is transitioning from a tropical system to a mid-latitude storm and has now been designated Post-Tropical Cyclone Ian, according to the 5 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
Post-Tropical Cyclone Ian has winds of 70 mph as it moves inland over the Carolinas. Tropical storm-force winds extend well out from the center and are impacting much of the eastern Carolinas.
And the danger is not over, the hurricane center said.
Ian is forecast to move further inland on Saturday over eastern South Carolina and across North Carolina. The hurricane center says the storm could reach western Virginia by early Sunday.
It began with a kayak, and on Friday it was a boat — as Emori Rivers and Henry Lawrence took it upon themselves to help their neighbors in Orlo Vista, Orlando.
“I just couldn’t live knowing that the people in my neighborhood were suffering from this hurricane. … I just had a boat and me and my sister-in-law, my daughter, we just dropped in and went to saving people,” Lawrence told CNN’s Ryan Young as they went from home to home.
Rivers said they had helped about 60 people get out of their homes while carrying supplies to others.
Rivers said in the flooded neighborhood, friends’ pets have died, and people have been crying and trying to call family members and hotels. Rescue crews were there Thursday, but not today.
There also had been alligators and snakes in the water — and she’d killed some snakes already. “I’m not worried about the snakes,” she said.
Rivers said she is frustrated by the city government’s response.
“I think my neighborhood exactly has got it worse than any other neighborhood. Yes, other neighborhoods have flooded. But I haven’t seen not one other neighborhood where their houses completely under the water. As we’re going by, I’m seeing water all the way up to the door. So I’m really frustrated; we need help out here,” she said.
Watch the moment here:
There were 16 storm-related deaths in Lee County, Florida, according to the local sheriff.
“Our hearts go out to friends & family who lost their loved one in this tragic storm. We are here for you & we will get though this together,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Friday on Twitter.
Lee County is in southwest Florida and it includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers as well as hard-hit Sanibel Island.
The sheriff’s tally brings CNN’s count to at least 42 storm-related deaths attributable to Hurricane Ian, based on a combination of state and county reporting.
On Friday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis listed 21 deaths in various counties. A number of counties have since updated their numbers.
Brian Henry, Mayor of Pawley’s Island in South Carolina, said when Ian hit as a Category 1 hurricane, it brought a storm surge that was “probably beyond what most people anticipated.”
Pawley’s Island is about 70 miles north of Charleston.
“Most of us did not believe we would see the storm surge at 7 plus feet,” Henry told CNN. “It’s beginning to recede but we have a huge amount of water on the roadways and across the island.”
Henry said he knows of at least one rescue on the island.
“There was a couple with cats and dogs in a one-level house that we’re experiencing chest-level flooding, and they needed to get out,” Henry said. “Local fire and rescue did a fantastic job getting in there and taking care of it.”
Now, the biggest concern is when officials will be able to do an assessment of the damage “because both of the causeways onto the island are still flooded and impassable,” Henry said.
The mayor says the island will most likely be closed for a few days as crews make sure structures and electrical systems are safe.
More than 2 million customers in the Southeast have lost power, according to PowerOutage.Us, as Hurricane Ian continues to churn in the region.
More than 1.7 million customers in Florida remain in the dark, with outages concentrated in the southwest and northeast parts of the state.
In South Carolina, more than 211,000 customers have lost power.
More than 82,000 customers in North Carolina are in the dark, mostly in the south-central area of the state.
Sidewalks and roads in the Radcliffeborough neighborhood of Charleston, South Carolina, are flooded, video shot by Nathaniel Oberholtzer shows.
Oberholtzer told CNN he shot the video at around 2 p.m. ET.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina, at 2:05 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. Ian’s maximum sustained winds at landfall were 85 mph, it said.
Charleston is located around 60 miles south of Georgetown.
About 15% of Fort Myers residents have power Friday afternoon, city manager Marty Lawing said, up from only 2% after Ian struck as a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday..
“We’ve got a long way to go with power but local utility, and some of the forces that have moved in to help, are making good progress and we think that will even ramp up over the next day or so,” he told CNN.
Lawing also says a good amount of the city is without water as well.
Statewide: More than 1.7 million customers are still without power across Florida, according to PowerOutage.Us.
Here’s what these outages looked like from space, before and after Hurricane Ian hit, as captured by NOAA and NASA satellites:
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said Hurricane Ian currently slamming South Carolina’s coast is “a pretty scary sight.”
Bethune told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota that her biggest fear is people in the city not staying inside. She said she has seen people out during the storm.
“I’m right on Ocean Boulevard. I’m seeing way too many cars passing by. And I think people just don’t realize how dangerous it is to be out in these types of conditions.” Bethune said. “We’ve seen so many people’s cars get stuck and emergency personnel has to go out and rescue people.”
Earlier Friday, Bethune told CNN that the city did not issue an evacuation order, so it is important that people hunker down.
“We have one hotel and one business that have both lost their roofs, we have some traffic lights that are down and out,” Bethune told CNN. “I haven’t heard of a lot of water damage yet in Myrtle Beach, so hopefully that will continue to be the case.”
Nearly 3,000 federal responders in Florida and across the Southeast are assisting with Hurricane Ian recovery efforts, according to Anne Bink, a Federal Emergency Management Administration assistant administrator. This includes more than 1,600 FEMA staff that are deployed to support the mission in Florida.
Bink also noted that four additional counties have been added to the major disaster declaration for assistance in Florida. The declaration allows FEMA to help individuals across designated counties.
In Florida, the US Army Corps of Engineers has 600 professionals working to move generators and provide infrastructure assessment.
The Army Corps is currently working on nine hospitals and helping Lee County determine where its water distribution system is leaking, Maj. Gen. William “Butch” Graham, deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations, said during a news conference on Friday.
FEMA Response and Recovery Assistant Administrator Anne Bink, center, speaks at a news conference at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, DC, on September 30.
Hurricane Ian still presents an “extreme threat to everyone in its path,” a top Federal Emergency Management Administration official said Friday as the storm system moved into South Carolina.
The storm is already impacting South Carolina and Georgia, said Anne Bink, a FEMA assistant administrator, adding that “all the hazards that we’ve seen in Florida can impact those further up the coast.”
Director of NOAA’s National Weather Service Ken Graham, at their joint news conference, stressed the dangers of storm surge as Hurricane Ian made landfall after slamming southwest Florida on Wednesday. He said the surge may be as high as five feet in some areas.
“That’s above ground. That’s water up your pant leg,” he said, adding that inland rain is also potentially very dangerous.
The hurricane is “right on the coast,” he said, adding that it was moving at 15 miles per hour and is continuing to “get a little faster.”
The Cherry Grove Pier in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, partially collapsed this afternoon as Hurricane Ian made landfall, an official with the North Myrtle Beach Emergency Management Office tells CNN.
This is the second pier to partially collapse this afternoon in South Carolina.
Earlier police said that a portion of Pawley’s Island Pier had collapsed. Pawley’s Island is north of Charleston.
A portion of the Pawley’s Island pier in South Carolina has collapsed and is floating south, according to a tweet from the Pawley’s Island police department.
Pawley’s Island is a beach town north of Charleston and south of Myrtle Beach.
Hurricane Ian ripped off parts of homes in Venice in southwestern Florida, where some roads appear to still be covered with water, CNN drone video shows.
See it here:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will hold a news conference at 5:20 p.m. ET in St. Augustine, Florida, to provide an update on the state’s response in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
The update was initially scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET.
DeSantis is expected to be joined by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and other Florida officials.
This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on September 29.
President Biden continued to pledge federal support for Florida as it deals with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian — a storm he said was “likely to rank among the worst… in the nation’s history.”
“We’re just beginning to see the scale of that destruction,” the President said Friday, in remarks at the White House. “It’s going to take months, years to rebuild. And our hearts go out to all those folks whose lives have been absolutely devastated by the storm. America’s heart is literally breaking.”
Speaking directly to the people of Florida, Biden said, “We see what you’re going through and we’re with you. We’re going to do everything we can for you.”
A 45-year-old Fort Myers Beach resident Hope Labriola stood naked on her bed for several hours while inside her mobile park home before she was rescued by the Cajun Navy, the disaster relief volunteer group, early Thursday morning, Labriola told CNN.
Labriola’s struggle to survive the storm surge caused by Hurricane Ian on Wednesday was documented by her friend Lisbeth Whelan, who recorded the last phone call she had with Labriola before Labriola lost phone service.
The phone call happened around 5 p.m. Wednesday evening and lasted about three minutes before it dropped, the recording shows.
“She told me that her nose was touching the ceiling and that she was having a hard time breathing. It was torture,” Wheeler said. “She was naked. She had to take her clothes off because the clothes kept getting wetter and weighing her down and she’s only about 100 pounds.”
During the phone call, a crying Labriola is heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t do this” and “I’m so cold.”
Labriola was also in tears during earlier calls as she watched flood waters destroy her family heirlooms, Whelan said.
Seconds before the call dropped, Whelan asks Labriola if there were waves of water nearby that she was hearing over the phone. A crying Labriola then responds with “I love you” and the call drops.
Whelan finally heard back from Labiola on Thursday evening and told CNN she was elated to hear that her friend had been rescued.
Prior to hearing from Labriola, Whelan posted on several Facebook groups begging for rescue groups to check on her friend but was told it was still too dangerous for rescue efforts to begin.
In an interview with CNN on Friday morning, Labriola, who has lived in the area with her cat for about 10 years, said she was rescued by the Cajun Navy around 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
“I saw some flashlights and I started screaming for help through this little crack in my window,” Labriola said. “At this point, the water was up to my shoulders.”
“They couldn’t get into my house. They tried to break the windows, they tried to do whatever they could. Then they finally got me out,” she said.
Labriola told CNN that she stood naked on her bed for several hours as she avoided the gushing waters in her one-story home.
Once she was saved, Labriola said she also witnessed the Cajun Navy rescue 19 other people, including a man who was stuck in a tree.
The residents who were rescued were transported to a hospital around 6 a.m. Thursday morning, according to Labriola, who was suffering from hypothermia when she arrived at the emergency room.
Labriola is still in shock but was released from the hospital Thursday night, she said. She’s currently sheltering at South Fort Myers High School with other displaced residents.
She stayed in her home to look after her cat and weather the storm. Fort Myers Beach was included in Lee County’s mandatory evacuation order before Hurricane Ian came ashore.
Labriola told CNN she does not plan to move back to Fort Myers Beach.
“People are like what are you going to do? And I tell them I’m leaving. You can’t get a house here. The whole place is wiped out,” she said.
Labriola’s home has been completely destroyed but she managed to save her wallet and cellphone before she was rescued. As of Friday morning, she’s still wearing the hospital scrubs she was given but is grateful to be alive.
“That was the scariest thing I’ve been through. I didn’t think I was going to survive,” she said.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina, at 2:05 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. Ian’s maximum sustained winds at landfall were 85 mph.
Hurricane force winds extend up to 70 miles from the center of the storm. Tropical storm-force winds reach up to 275 miles from the center, it said.
After landfall, Ian is expected to rapidly transition into a post-tropical system, and see a decrease in its strongest winds as it pushes inland. Still, heavy rain and gusty conditions will impact millions over the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states over the next 24 hours.
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on September 30.
President Joe Biden claimed that the team of search and rescue experts pre-deployed in Florida at his direction is the largest in recent history.
“At my direction, we pre-deployed the largest team of search and rescue experts in recent history, because so many of the rescuers need to be there in place now, in the water now,” he said Friday.
About 117 people have been rescued by this team on the southwest Florida coast in collaboration with local and state teams, he added.
“The United States coast guard has been deployed as well. Six fixed-wing aircraft, 18 rescue boats and crews, 16 rescue helicopters, which were in the day all day yesterday and are at it again today,” he told reporters.
A vehicle drives down a flooded street in Charleston as rain from Hurricane Ian drenches the city on September 30.
President Biden urged residents of South Carolina in Hurricane Ian’s path to remain vigilant and follow the advisories from local officials in case of danger.
After devastation caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida and with storm near South Carolina’s coast, President Joe Biden on Friday shared an update on his administration’s federal response.
“Last night I received a request for an emergency declaration from Gov. Henry McMaster, which I approved right away just as I did for Florida,” he said. “This allows for immediate federal funding for the state to shelter people and provide other essential support.”
By approving it early, this support can be provided if necessary, he said.
“I’ve directed that every possible action be taken to save lives and get help to survivors, because every single minute counts. It’s not just a crisis for Florida. It’s an American crisis. We are all in this together,” he said, adding that he had spoken to governors of the two states again today.
President Biden delivers remarks from the White House on September 30.
President Biden is delivering remarks now from the White House on the ongoing federal response efforts for Hurricane Ian.
Yesterday, Biden visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and announced that those in Florida without enough insurance will be provided individual assistance of $37,900 for home repairs and another $37,900 for loss of property, including “everything from automobile to a lost wedding ring.”
Biden also said that he intends to visit Florida and Puerto Rico, which continues to deal with devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed reporting to this post.
Many beach cottages that lined the shores of Sanibel Island were wiped away by Hurricane Ian’s storm surge, new aerial imagery from NOAA shows. Most homes appear to have sustained some form of roof damage, in addition to certain storm surge and flooding damage.
The only thing that is left of Gulf Breeze Cottages is the parking lot. All buildings on the property have been destroyed, and their debris litters the area nearby.
Shalimar Cottages and Motel is gone, too. Its 14 cottages and entire motel building were wiped away by the storm. At least four cottages — or what remains of them — are parked in a street.
Island Inn’s main building, which housed its Traditions on the Beach restaurant, has been destroyed. What remains of the building’s roof is seen sitting in the parking lot. Sand covers most of the property.
Mitchell’s SandCastles has also been completely destroyed. No buildings remain and the property is covered in sand.
Only one building remains of the Waterside Inn on the Beach. The only thing remaining of the eight buildings on the property, which encircle the swimming pool, is debris.
Only three buildings remain of Sanibel’s Beachview Cottages. The storm surge was so powerful, it pushed nearly all of the cottages off their foundation. Only one is seen in the aerial image and is parked where the surge left it — on top of the swimming pool.
Only a portion of two buildings remain of the Blue Dolphin Hotel. The homes surrounding the hotel appear to have only sustained some roof damage. The only evidence of some hotel buildings are the remaining walls and foundation.
The roofs of four buildings that comprise Ocean’s Reach have sustained significant damage. It’s unclear how how things fared inside the buildings, but a significant debris field is seen behind the buildings. A covered parking structure behind the buildings has been destroyed as well.
Even though storm surge is no longer covering Sanibel, a number of homes on the Sanibel Island Golf Club remain underwater.
A US Coast Guard helicopter can be seen resting on the sand near the Island Beach Club. It’s unclear whether it’s conducting a rescue when the aerial image was taken.
Large scars in the sands can be seen near the Casa Ybel Beach Resort — the storm surge eroded much of the beach and dunes.
View before-and-after images here.
A tornado watch is in effect until 10 p.m. ET for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, covering nearly 5 million people, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
The watch affects areas including Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina and Virginia’s Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
The bands of storms associated with Hurricane Ian could produce a few tornadoes as they move inland this afternoon and evening.
Crews are facing challenges with the restoration of power in Naples, Florida, Fire Chief Pete DiMaria told CNN Friday.
“We have some challenging things going on with the restoration of power as it attempts to come back on,” DiMaria said. “We’ve seen some structure fires, we had a working fire last night where we lost a home down in one of our communities. So, it’s been very challenging.”
Naples is currently under a boil water notice and crews are working to restore water, he said, adding that the streets have been cleared as best as possible and they have access to all communities.
“We’ve been constantly on the go with search and rescue of properties that have been flooded out, and we’re going house-by-house to check and make sure that everyone is safe in the community,” he said.
The storm surge also flooded and devastated the fire station, according DiMaria.
“Fortunately, we’re set up to take a certain amount of storm surge, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think we would be in a position that we are now. One of our engines was completely flooded and we had to push it down to the bay. Just a tremendous loss community-wide here and by far the worst storm that I’ve been through,” he added.
President Joe Biden and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster spoke today as Hurricane Ian approaches state, according to the White House.
The two discussed “the steps the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to support South Carolina in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Ian, including the issuance of an Emergency Declaration for South Carolina last night,” the White House said in a readout.
Biden told McMaster that his administration “is here to provide whatever assistance the people of South Carolina need,” the readout added.
Biden also spoke with Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier today, and is expected to provide an update on the federal response later Friday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said the state plans to assist people who suffered damage to their homes after Hurricane Ian with insurance claims and called for them to be “paid very quickly so that people can get back on their feet.”
As part of Florida’s disaster recovery centers, the state will also set up “insurance villages” under the leadership of Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis to assist with insurance claims, anticipating that there will be a lot of flood claims and wind claims, DeSantis said in Tallahassee during an update on hurricane recovery efforts.
The “insurance villages” are a site for Floridians to file their claims in-person with their carrier. The state’s preliminary site will have between 20 to 25 carriers in RVs to initially give out living expense funding, according to Patronis.
Florida homeowners had already been facing an expensive and difficult market for home insurance before Hurricane Ian hit the state, and damage from floodwaters is not covered by homeowners’ insurance. Such claims are filed with the National Flood Insurance Program, a federal insurer operated by FEMA.
“Make sure if you’re looking at claims on your property, you document that. Take photos, make sure you have it. We want you to be able to be made whole as quickly as possible,” DeSantis advised.
Patronis advised people who have suffered damage to their homes that the “first phone call” for people to make “needs be to your agent, your carrier, or to my office.”
On Thursday, he warned those impacted by Hurricane Ian to be cautious of insurance scammers.
While multiple Florida airports are reopening after Hurricane Ian’s impact, others in the Southeast and up the East Coast are preparing for the rejuvenated storm.
In the Carolinas: Charleston International Airport announced it closed Friday morning “due to high winds” and plans to resume operations early Saturday.
Charlotte Douglas International – the nation’s sixth-largest and a major hub for American Airlines – said it was monitoring the storm. The FAA said a ground stop at Charlotte is possible Friday.
The FAA noted it is preparing for potential air traffic rerouting in the Northeast on Friday afternoon.
Myrtle Beach International Airport, which is along the South Carolina coast, said it remained open. But the flight-tracking site FlightAware showed about 90% of its Friday flights canceled.
The Greenville-Spartanburg and Raleigh-Durham airports both reported they were open.
In Florida: Eight of the 11 airports that closed or saw flights suspended due to the hurricane indicated plans to reopen Friday. Daytona Beach International, Southwest Florida International and Punta Gorda Airport remain closed.
The latest Florida airport to announce its plans is the Orlando Sanford International Airport, the smaller of the Orlando airports, which said it is now open, but that airlines canceled all Friday departures.
As of 11:30 a.m. ET, more than 1,800 flights have been canceled nationwide, according to FlightAware, led by Orlando International Airport.
A firefighter examines a fallen tree in Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday.
As Charleston, South Carolina, braces for the impact of Hurricane Ian, city councilman Stephen Bowden said residents should hunker down.
“We’re in the worst part of the storm right now. Over the next few hours, we’re going to see flooding rains,” Bowden told CNN. “We are at high tide right now. Fortunately, it’s passing to the north, so we’re not going to see the surge that we thought that we might see. We’re going to dodge probably the worst of it.”
“We need people to stay inside. If you didn’t have to be out and about, just hunker down, get some hurricane snacks like we have got, and just ride it out for the next few hours,” he recommended.
Bowden expressed confidence in the residents, saying they are used to riding out hurricanes and they will respect first responders to not be out themselves, which could possibly endanger the responders.
“The city is fully mobilized to do what we need to do. Once the worst of it passes, we will start cleaning up. We’re just asking for folks to cooperate,” he added.
Charlotte County only has one operating hospital and it is not accepting anyone in the emergency room due to lack of capacity, said Chris Constance, the county’s commissioner said.
The biggest issue right now is that 90% of the homes and businesses in the county do not have electricity, he told CNN Friday. There is also only one gas station open, with a line that is four miles long.
“We have only one hospital operating. It’s code black, which means they’re not even accepting anybody in the emergency room because they just don’t have any capacity,” he said.
“We’re pleading for help. We’re getting it from the state, but it’s slow to come,” he said. “It’s coordinating, we have assets, we have food, we have water, but it’s just setting up the locations.”
He said he hopes there will be a location today to put out a distribution point for food and water.
The hospital was one of the biggest admitters in the county, he said, so the fact that it’s not fully operational is “a tremendous burden.”
There is an equal-size hospital that took patients from them and a third hospital which was evacuated prior to the storm.
“We’re hoping to stand up that hospital that was evacuated if we can get power and water back to that hospital. I think water is being restored now, but power again is the big issue because that does everything for us,” he said.
The final approach of Hurricane Ian into South Carolina has been coinciding with high tide in Myrtle Beach, leading to rapidly rising water levels measured by NOAA’s tidal gauge at Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach.
Tide levels have risen to over 9.5 feet, increasing at more than a foot per hour since 6 a.m. ET this morning. This is the highest water level measured in Myrtle Beach since Hurricane Isaias in August 2020, and the fourth-highest water level ever measured since the gauge was installed in 1976.
Two elderly deaths in unincorporated Sarasota County appear to be related to Hurricane Ian, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Facebook post Friday morning.
A 94-year-old man in Palmer Ranch area and an 80-year-old woman in north Sarasota, who both relied on oxygen machines, died after a power loss in the storm disabled their machines, the post said.
At least 25 deaths are now believed to be related to Hurricane Ian, according to CNN’s count.
Search and rescue personnel wade through the waters of a flooded neighborhood in Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday.
Liz Bello-Matthews, spokesperson for the city of Fort Myers, Florida, said on CNN Friday that they are constantly responding to people affected by Hurricane Ian.
“In the city of Fort Myers, we are just responding constantly, we have been since the evening before yesterday, and it has been literally nonstop,” she said.
She doesn’t have a number of people who still need help or casualties at this time, Bello-Matthews said.
“We’re still just moving forward and trying to make sure that we’re there when they need us,” she said. “The calls are still coming in, although we don’t believe that there’s anyone remaining in the city of Fort Myers stranded anymore, we do have a lot of residents that are struggling.”
Connectivity is down right now, she said, with no internet and electricity, things that are going to have to be rebuilt. There’s also many sections of the city that do not have water.
“We’re in recovery mode right now,” she said. “We’re setting up our resources so that people can come and get them and yes, you know, it’s what’s expected after a major hurricane like this.”
Bello-Matthews said that the city is gathering resources for people who don’t have safe spaces to stay, something that was prepared in advance. Multiple shelters opened within the city, including a large one which she said was “highly underutilized,” and there are multiple throughout Lee County.
“The resources are there. They’re still open. We still have resources at those shelters and that’s where we’re guiding people to go at this time to make sure that they’re safe if their home is just not inhabitable,” she said.
As Hurricane Ian continues to threaten the east coast, President Joe Biden signed a new law to protect Federal Emergency Management Agency reservists from losing their full-time jobs when they are called to assist with disaster response.
Sens. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, who authored the legislation, said it would help with retention of these part-time FEMA workers.
FEMA reservists are temporary, on-call employees who can be called up during a major disaster.
The agency has a shortfall of reservists because they face difficulties in balancing FEMA duties and full-time employment, according to the senators, who noted that unlike reservists in the US military, FEMA reservists do not currently have employment protections that would ensure that their permanent, full-time jobs will still be available when they return.
“Now that President Biden has signed this commonsense, bipartisan bill into law – FEMA Reservists will no longer have to risk their livelihoods when being called up to respond to a disaster,” said Peters in a statement.
Biden touted the law Thursday from FEMA headquarters.
“And right now, if you’re in the National Guard and you get called up, you can still keep your job. But if you’re in the FEMA Reserve, that’s not the case. That’s why earlier this morning, I signed into law the bipartisan CREW Act,” he said.
“And that law will ensure that FEMA reservists have job protection just like military reservists,” Biden added.
Flooded homes in Port Charlotte, Florida, are seen on Thursday.
Hurricane Ian may have caused as much as $47 billion in insured losses, according to an estimate from property analytics firm CoreLogic, which could make it the most expensive storm in the state’s history.
That estimate is for insured losses, from both private insurance that typically covers wind damage, as well as water damage covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA.
CoreLogic’s range of loss estimates go from $22 billion and $32 billion for wind damage and an additional $6 billion to $15 billion in flood damage, so the low end of the combined estimate would be $28 billion, just above that $26.5 billion in losses caused by Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in 1992.
But that estimate for losses due to Andrew, from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, represents the cost 30 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, the current cost of Andrew would be $55.7 billion. Even so, this would still put Ian as the state’s second most expensive storm.
A worker steps over a pump removing water from the Battery in Charleston on Friday.
The center of Hurricane Ian is only about 50 miles from making landfall in South Carolina, as of the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, which noted that the storm was “accelerating toward the South Carolina Coast.”
Ian remains a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, but its forward speed has increased slightly to 14 mph.
Landfall is expected early this afternoon between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
With the eye of the storm expected to hit east of Charleston, the storm surge forecast has been lowered slightly for the city. It is currently expected to be two to four feet above tidal levels.
A higher surge is expected east of the center of the storm, where winds will push water onshore. Storm surge is forecast to be four to seven feet from Isle of the Palms to Little River Inlet, which includes Myrtle Beach.
Orange County government — along with Orange County Fire Rescue, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the National Guard — guided residents and their pets through floodwaters during rescue efforts Thursday in Orange County, Florida.
“Pets are family. Period,” the Orange County government posted on its Facebook page, adding that “pets were rescued with their owners.”
A police officer moves a barricade to block a flooded street in Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday.
The projected 7.5 feet high tide in the areas of Charleston, South Carolina, “makes a very meaningful difference,” the city’s mayor, John Tecklenburg, said on CNN Friday.
“It means a difference of water breaching our low battery seawall that’s been elevated now, but we’re not quite finished with it. And our hospital district will not be inundated, just with that little difference. It’s great news, so I feel some blessings,” he said.
Tecklenburg also said that while they had to let the storm pass by in Charleston today, “we’re going to clean up tomorrow, and we’re going to be back in business. And we’re going to be thinking about sending the team down there to Florida next week to try to help them out.”
The Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers announced Friday morning that people with cars in their long- and short-term parking lots, will be able to get their vehicles out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday.
“Although the entry to the lots is marked with a ‘closed sign,’ tell the official stationed at the entrance you are picking up your car,” the airport said in a post.
The Federal Aviation Administration lists RSW’s closure until Oct. 7, but the airport says it will open sooner if they can.
“Like everyone in Southwest Florida, we are going day-by-day. We cannot speak on behalf of the airlines; but, like us, they want to start flying as soon as possible,” it said.
RSW says its runways and roadways are open, but they are still waiting for power to be restored.
A 67-year-old man waiting to be rescued by high-water crews died Thursday night in his New Smyrna Beach home after falling and not being able to get up before the water level rose over him, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said in a release.
The home was in an area inaccessible by standard patrol vehicles as the streets were flooded with waist-high water levels, according to the sheriff’s office.
The man and his wife were on a list to be rescued, the sheriff’s office said.
“Rescuers performed life-saving measures but were unable to revive the victim. He was pronounced deceased on scene. His wife and 2 dogs in the house were taken to a storm shelter,” the release said. “A deputy also recovered a third dog from the home and transported it to an animal shelter.”
This is the second storm-related death in Volusia Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction, the release said. A 72-year-old man died Thursday in Deltona after falling in a canal behind his home, according to the release.
The Florida governor’s office previously reported 21 deaths thought to be related to Hurricane Ian. CNN’s tally of storm-related deaths now stands at 23.
Charleston International Airport airfield has closed due to high winds from Hurricane Ian, according to a post on its website.
The current plan is to reopen on Saturday at 6 a.m. ET, it added.
A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management will begin running barges to Lee County’s Sanibel Island to be able to bring more heavy equipment onto the island and help with cleanup efforts, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday, after Hurricane Ian washed the sandbar out from underneath the Sanibel Causeway.
The barges will allow responders to bring heavier equipment in, as first responders that have been arriving largely by air and were “traveling lighter” to be able to get to people as quickly as possible, the governor said.
“Fortunately, they’re not finding like desperate people waving,” DeSantis said. “There’s some people that are brought off the island, they’re thankful, but many of these people on Sanibel, some are saying ‘We’re fine, thanks for coming by and doing that.’ So obviously there’s going to be more that happens in the next few days, but I do think the response was very, very quick. I think it absolutely has made a huge difference.”
The Florida Division of Emergency Management so far has made 3,000 touch points with people in the field and rescued 700 individuals, Director Kevin Guthrie said.
Damage to the Sanibel Causeway is seen on Thursday.
President Joe Biden spoke by phone on Friday with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a third time this week as the state is dealing with catastrophic devastation from Hurricane Ian.
“[email protected] just spoke on the phone with Governor DeSantis and FEMA Administrator Criswell, who is on the ground in Florida. The President received an update on response efforts in the state and made clear the Federal government will continue to be there for the people of Florida,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet.
Biden said Thursday that he plans to visit Florida “when the conditions allow” and that he would meet with DeSantis during his trip “if he wants to meet.”
Storm surge warnings remain in effect Friday along the intercoastal waterway and St. Johns River south of downtown Jacksonville, Florida, according to the National Weather Service in Jacksonville.
The Intercoastal Water Way could flood between 2 and 4 feet with up to 2 feet of flooding along the Atlantic coast, according to the weather service.
The weather service said “trapped tides will exacerbate flooding” in the St. Johns River possibly into next week.
Ian will make landfall in the Carolinas Friday afternoon and evening, according to the weather service.
“We hope everyone is doing ok as Ian thankfully makes its way north. There is still the possibility of storm surge and flooding today,” according to a city of Jacksonville Facebook post.
“Please continue to take caution if you have to be on the roadways. If you encounter flooded roads, turn around — don’t drown,” the post continued.
Florida Power & Light spokesperson Peter Robbins said most Floridians without power should have a timeline of restoration from the company by later this evening.
“Later today, we’re going to be able to provide our customers — in most areas — a more detailed timeline of restoration. We’re still doing damage assessments in the hardest-hit areas where it’s just been difficult to access those locations because of floodwaters and because of debris. So those hardest-hit areas will take more time and getting that timeline will take us a little longer but we should have an estimate for most of our customers later this evening,” Robbins told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
He encouraged residents of the hardest-hit locations to continue to stay in place if they are in a secure location.
“Sit tight. … Even if you manage to make your way back to your home, you’re probably going to be without power for a little bit,” he said, adding that people should check with emergency officials and their local sheriff’s office before heading out.
Currently, about 1.9 million Floridians still do not have power, according to PowerOutage.us.
As South Carolina braces for Hurricane Ian, which is expected to make landfall today as a Category 1 storm, here’s what Joe Coates, director of emergency management division in Charleston County, South Carolina, hopes residents would do.
- Stay off the road
- Stay home
- Do not drive around floodwaters
- Do not remove barriers
“Eventually, the storm winds are going to get up so high where our first responders are going to be recalled back to the stations. And we really don’t need to try to have to rescue people that are out and about when these high winds come,” he told CNN Friday.
One key factor for Coates has been the settlement of new residents in the area who may not be experienced in hurricane preparation.
“So we’ve done our best to try to educate everyone and make sure that they know what the effects are from these storms. And we’ve just tried to make sure that people heed the advice of first responders and our public officials to stay home and stay off the roads,” he said.
Bonita Springs, Florida, resident Brett Wheatley captured video of a lengthy stretch of first-responder vehicles in line along a highway while driving back to his home.
Bonita Springs is north of Naples and south of Fort Myers.
Nearly 2 million people across Florida are still without power Friday morning, and officials continue to warn people to take precautions when firing up portable generators.
Generators can be immensely helpful for storm victims without power — but they can also be deadly when used incorrectly.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the leading causes of death after storms in areas dealing with power outages,” the National Weather Service said. There is also a risk of electrocution or the generator starting a fire, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind, according to the National Hurricane Center:
- Never use a generator inside an enclosed space, such as a house or garage. Keep the generator outside, at least 20 feet away from any doors or windows, the NWS said.
- It’s also a good idea to have a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector, as carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless.
- If you feel sick or dizzy, find fresh air and get medical attention, the NHC said.
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. “Gasoline or other flammable liquids spilled on hot engine parts could ignite,” according to FEMA.
There are about 1.9 million people without power, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Here’s the breakdown he provided of customers without power:
- Hardee County: 99%
- Charlotte County: 85%
- Lee County: 85%
- DeSoto County: 80%
- Sarasota, Collier and Manatee Counties: Nearly 50%
- Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties: 15% to 18%
Crews are working round the clock to restore power, DeSantis added.
Lee County is reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, with only 15% power restored so far and a lack of water, according to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Lee County “had a water main break for their county water utility. That means that the county does not have water at this point, and you need that to be able to function in society,” DeSantis said in an update on Friday morning. “They’ve requested support from FEMA.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided an army corps of engineers who were on the ground in the early hours of the morning, and they are assessing the situation, DeSantis added, saying Florida National Guard is also standing by if the FEMA army corps need help.
While it is unclear if the infrastructure will require a rebuild and a short-term remediation, DeSantis said it is “clearly a top priority.”
Damaged buildings are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, on Thursday.
“Fort Myers Beach is impassable,” the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said in an update on Friday morning.
“We hear you. We understand you have loved ones on the island,” the sheriff’s office said, noting that it is not safe to drive onto the island. “Bicycles cannot even make it through clear pathways.”
The sheriff’s office promised to provide an update when it is safe to travel on the island again.
A boat sits on top of a vehicle at Fort Myers Beach on Thursday.
The powerful Category 4 Hurricane Ian left a destructive path of torrential rains, flooding and record storm surges in Naples and Fort Myers. So far, at least 19 people have been reported dead from the storm and more than 2 million are without power across the state.
The need for help is expected to grow as Ian heads towards South Carolina as a Category 1 storm. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are all bracing for dangerous conditions.
The state of Florida has a Florida Disaster Fund that you can donate to here or by texting “disaster” to 20222.
Several organizations already have teams on the ground. You can help them here or by clicking the button below.
After Hurricane Ian damaged the Causeway Bridge, making it impassable, Sanibel Island is cut off from mainland Florida. Bridges to Pine Island have also failed, meaning boats and helicopters are the only exit options for residents on both islands.
While Coast Guard and Blackhawks buzzed over the barrier islands with helicopters, two of the only boats in this part of the gulf carry civilian volunteers from the Cajun Navy, CNN’s Bill Weir reports. The other group is a new outfit called Project Dynamo.
Watch CNN’s Bill Weir ride along their rescue operations:
Hurricane Ian is continuing its trek toward the South Carolina coast. It’s currently about 105 miles southeast of Charleston, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. ET advisory.
“Tropical-storm-force winds ongoing across much of the coast of the Carolinas,” the center said in its latest advisory. “Life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions expected by this afternoon.”
Ian remains a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. It’s expected to make landfall this afternoon.
Here’s a look at the latest projected path from the National Hurricane Center:
CNN flew above the destruction left behind by Hurricane Ian in Lee County, Florida, which is one of the hardest-hit counties in the state.
Take a look at the footage:
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson described the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian. There are big boats on the ground and pieces of the river dock are strewn about.
The chunks of dock ripped by the storm surge and floated onto the ground “could weigh as much as a ton,” he added. “They were thrown around like they were nothing.”
The destruction is horrific, he said, but it’s “good for people to see this to understand the power of a storm. So when future storms are approaching … they take our advisory seriously.”
The city has no reported fatalities, and authorities, who have rescued more than 200 people, confident that they have gotten everybody, Anderson told CNN. Now, the biggest need in the city is for electricity and water.
Resident can expect power back bit by bit each day, he said, adding that 80% of the city is still without power, even though crews are already working on restoration.
At this time though, the mayor said residents should stay home.
“Until we can get the roads cleared, the power lines secured, I would really love for people to stay home. It’s not safe out there. There are trees still ready to fall. A lot of times, there’s more deaths after the hurricane, from trees falling … people hitting power lines.”
Hurricane Ian is expected to make landfall along the South Carolina coast this afternoon.
Hurricane and tropical storm conditions will be felt over a vast area, as the hurricane-force winds spread for 70 miles and the tropical storm-force winds spread over almost 600 miles.
Here is what to expect in a couple key locations today:
Charleston, South Carolina:
- Period of tropical storm-force wind gusts: now through 9 p.m. ET
- Peak winds: Gusts to 60 to 70 mph+, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET
- Rainfall expected: 3 to 6 inches
- Surge expected: : 4 to 7 feet (probably on the low end since it will be left of the eye)
- High tide time: around 11 a.m. ET
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:
- Period of tropical storm-force wind gusts: now through 9 p.m. ET
- Peak winds: Gusts to 75 to 85 mph+, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
- Rainfall expected: 3 to 5 inches
- Surge expected: : 4 to 7 feet
- High Tide time: around 10 a.m. ET
Most grocery stores in Florida’s Collier County, which includes Naples and Marco Island, will be open Friday, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
The office also urged caution if residents go to the stores because many of them are located near major intersections that may not have functional traffic lights.
County officials are getting generators to those traffic lights that are without power, it added, but said that it takes at least five deputies to staff traffic control at one light 24 hours a day.
Washed-up boats and destruction at Fort Myers Beach, following Hurricane Ian on September 29.
Fort Myers Beach councilman Dan Allers rode out the storm with his wife at a friend’s house. But when he went back out, he said the words that came to mind were “total devastation” and “catastrophic.”
After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers Beach “looks like just a big sandy beach” if you look from above, Allers told CNN, adding that an aerial shot from before the hurricane would look completely different from an aerial shot of the same area today.
As Allers gets out to help clear the road, he said it’s like plowing the road after a big snowstorm in the midwest. The aim is to get to the southern end of the island where most of the community’s senior citizens live who are struggling to get supplies — not from the lack of effort but a lack of adequate help, he said.
President Biden said Thursday the federal government will cover 100% of the cost that the state of Florida incurs for its emergency response efforts related to Hurricane Ian. He noted that he approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for expedited major disaster declaration during his remarks from FEMA headquarters in Washington, DC, Thursday.
A flash flood warning is in place for the Charleston metro area until noon ET as considerable flash flooding is expected from Ian’s heavy rainfall this morning, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.
Bands of heavy rain in association with Hurricane Ian will continue to move inland over the Charleston metropolitan area this morning. So far, 1 to 2 inches of rain has already fallen with an additional 2 to 6 inches expected. As tides continue to rise this morning and rainfall rates continue to increase flash flooding will begin.
Some locations that will experience flash flooding include north Charleston, downtown Charleston, the I-26/I-526 interchange and the Charleston Naval Complex.
As of 5 a.m. ET on Friday, there were 2,066,913 Florida customers still without power as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian, according to PowerOutage.us.
The counties with the highest outage numbers currently include Lee County, with 406,574 customers without power, Volusia County, with 215,613 customers without power, and Collier County with 154,494 customers without power.
Damage to homes after Hurricane Ian, on September 29, in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Charlotte County received about “300 triage 911 calls” during Hurricane Ian as crews were unable to respond due to dangerous conditions, according to county commissioner Bill Truex.
Rescue and recovery efforts are now ongoing, he said.
“We have a tremendous amount of damage in my district which is over the western part of the county,” Truex told CNN’s John Berman on Friday.
Hurricane Ian “has been an eye opener for many people here, particularly the large number of new residents … that have not experienced this” previously, he said.
At least five deaths have been reported in Lee County, according to officials. One of the county’s hospital systems required evacuation for more than 1,000 patients due to a lack of water supply.
More than 500 people were rescued by Thursday afternoon in both counties, according to the Florida Department of Emergency Management.
Public works crews have started to open up major roads in Charlotte County, Truex said.
“Some of the neighborhoods are still kind of hard to maneuver through, so I would caution people to be very careful,” said the commissioner.
Damage to homes on Fort Myers Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Ian on September 29.
Hurricane Ian is headed toward South Carolina as a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds up to 85 mph after it tore through Florida.
The storm’s brutal combination of powerful winds, widespread flooding and life-threatening storm surge left a path of destruction in Florida. Millions of homes and businesses are without power as flooding continues in some areas and hundreds of rescues have been carried out so far.
Ian first made landfall Wednesday afternoon on Florida’s southwestern coast as a catastrophic Category 4 storm and weakened to a tropical storm as it made its way through the state. But as it churns over Atlantic waters, Ian has again intensified into a Category 1 storm.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall midday in South Carolina Friday as rains have arrived in the overnight hours. North Carolina and southwestern Virginia are also bracing for heavy precipitation.
Here are the latest updates:
- More deaths are discovered, authorities say: There have been 19 reported deaths across Florida in connection with Ian. The majority of those killed were in hard-hit Charlotte and Lee counties.
- East Coast could see life-threatening storm surge: Coastal areas of northeastern Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina may be inundated with dangerous storm surge on Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. Officials are urging residents to heed local weather warnings.
- Even more flooding expected: Coastal and northeastern South Carolina are expected to see considerable flash and urban flooding Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. In central Florida, “major to record river flooding” will continue through next week.
- Widespread damage in Florida: Historic flooding and hurricane-force winds wreaked havoc on Florida communities, particularly in southwestern coastal areas like Fort Myers, where entire houses were wiped away and some neighborhoods were rendered unrecognizable. Gov. Ron DeSantis called the damage in parts of the state “indescribable.”
Storms are beginning to lash the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts early Friday as Hurricane Ian advances north from the Atlantic Ocean.
The dangerous storm system was about 145 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, as of 5 a.m. Friday, the National Hurricane Center said in an update.
Moving north-northeast at 9 mph, Ian is expected to pick up forward speed Friday morning, according to the update.
North Carolina and South Carolina are forecast to be pummeled by “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions” as the storm creeps closer this afternoon, the hurricane center said.
Flooding rains will also likely begin soaking the Carolinas and southern Virginia, according to the forecast.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Tom Brady (12) leads the team onto the field before the regular season game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 25, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and the team’s owners, the Glazer family, both announced on Thursday that they will make donations towards Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
“Happy were able to head home for Sunday night, but so many people in Florida won’t be able to do the same,” Brady said in a tweet.
“I’ll be making a donation to the Florida Disaster Fund to get things started, and I’m hoping the rest of the NFL family in our state will follow suit.”
The Glazer family announced it will donate $1 million to “organizations that are providing support to those who have been most impacted” throughout the state.
Read more about the Bucs’ plan to play in Tampa on Sunday here:
Police officers direct the traffic during a power outage after Hurricane Ian passed through Bartow, Florida on September 29.
Nearly 2.2 million homes and businesses in Florida were still without power as of 2:40 a.m. ET Friday, according to PowerOutage.us.
Earlier on Thursday, the amount of customers reported to be in the dark reached as high as 2.6 million.
Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest energy provider, said in a tweet that storm conditions are making repairs difficult.
“Downed trees, high winds and flooding are posing challenges but we’re working around the clock to repair and restore all areas,” the utility said, noting in a separate statement that especially bad conditions in southwest Florida may delay repairs further.
Almost 20% of Florida Power & Light’s tracked customers were without electricity early Friday, according to PowerOutage.us.
Hurricane Ian’s destructive crawl across Florida brought extraordinary flooding and storm surges, prompting the largest emergency response in the state’s history, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis told CNN Thursday.
Multiple communities have been wiped out by the storm. In Fort Myers Beach along the state’s southwestern coast, some homes have been reduced to nothing but concrete slabs, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, calling the damage in parts of the state “indescribable.”
Patronis, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, compared the devastation in the Fort Myers area to the damage left behind by Hurricane Michael, which slammed the Florida Panhandle in 2018 as a Category 5 storm.
“Fort Myers Beach … very similar to Mexico Beach with Hurricane Michael. A much older community, older infrastructure built with older building codes. So, the devastation there is very similar to what we’re seeing with Hurricane Michael and Bay County,” he said.
When all is said and done, Ian’s storm system will likely have left behind lasting changes in its wake.
Track Ian’s path as well as power outages and the storm’s impact in Florida here:
First responders rescue residents who were in need of assistance in North Port on Thursday September 29.
Officials in North Port, Florida, issued a citywide curfew for residents Thursday night amid flooding from Hurricane Ian.
Residents are asked to shelter in place from 8 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday ET, the city said in an update.
“There is a strong potential for the water levels throughout the City to continue rising over the days ahead as the rainwater Hurricane Ian dumped to the north of us flows south,” the city said.
North Port is in Sarasota County, which was battered by Hurricane Ian as it made landfall Wednesday.
Fire rescue crews were working through a “backlog of priority calls” Thursday night, the update said, but residents were still encouraged to call 911 with emergencies.
City water service has been restored, but for the next three days residents should still continue to boil water before consuming it, the city said.
As Hurricane Ian strengthens in the Atlantic and veers toward the South Carolina coast, officials are assessing the destruction wrought in Florida that is being characterized as likely the largest natural disaster in the state’s history.
At least 19 people have died in the US due to the storm, which made landfall in southwestern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon. Weakening to a tropical storm as it crossed the Florida peninsula, Ian has since intensified into a Category 1 storm packing nearly 85 mph sustained winds after reaching open waters.
Here are the latest developments:
- Florida island residents unable to access mainland: Significant breaches to the causeway to Sanibel Island – an island off the Florida mainland near Cape Coral – has stranded residents who did not or were not able to evacuate, necessitating contact and rescue by first responders via helicopter. The bridges to nearby Pine Island have failed, and Matlacha, a tiny island also near Cape Coral, is reportedly completely cut off.
- More than 2 million are without power: While outages in Florida are slowly being repaired, more than 2.2 million customers remain in the dark as of early Friday, according to PowerOutage.us. The southwestern counties of Hardee, Charlotte, Lee and Highlands are among the most heavily damaged, and Volusia and Seminole counties by the Atlantic shore are also reporting substantial power loss.
- Hazards remain after the storm: Search crews have begun going door-to-door in the hardest-hit parts of the state to perform wellness checks after floodwaters initially sidelined first responders. Residents who stayed during the storm have been urged to beware of power lines that are mixed inside fallen trees and warned of possible electrified standing water.
- Hundreds, if not more, have required rescue: More than 500 individuals have been rescued in Charlotte and Lee counties as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Florida Department of Emergency Management. Teams from Orange County made rescues for people and pets in waist-high water. The US Coast Guard performed 28 rescues in the early morning hours Thursday from Fort Myers to St. Petersburg, an official told CNN, and included both maritime rescues as well as roof rescues.
- Heavy flooding in central Florida: Areas in and around Orlando face “historic flooding” in parts of the city and high water levels may remain for some time. “Unfortunately the only way the water is going to go down is to recede naturally,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. Kissimmee – 18 miles south of Orlando – saw an unprecedented amount of flooding and one of its hospitals during the storm was surrounded by floodwaters, officials said.
- South Carolina may be hit during high tide: Forecasts have Ian making landfall midday Friday, potentially at high tide which may exacerbate storm surges. In Charleston, a city that is especially vulnerable to coastal flooding, the high tide is at 11:41 a.m. ET. In Myrtle Beach, high tide is at 11:18 a.m. ET.
An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft has indicated that Ian’s maximum winds have increased to nearly 85 mph, according to a special update from the National Hurricane Center.
Ian is located about 185 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, with a track that has shifted slightly to the east, the hurricane center said.
Landfall is now expected just west of Myrtle Beach.
Storm surge, high winds and life-threatening flooding are still expected for much of the Carolinas on Friday, the advisory said.
Homes damaged by Hurricane Ian are seen in Fort Myers Beach on September 29.
The city of Fort Myers Beach on Florida’s southwest coast was leveled by Hurricane Ian, a local politician said late Thursday.
“I made it about two-thirds down the island and I’d say 90% of the island is pretty much gone,” Fort Myers Beach Town Councilman Dan Allers tells CNN’s Don Lemon. “Unless you have a high-rise condo or a newer concrete home that is built to the same standards today, your house is pretty much gone.”
The city, with a population of around 5,600 people, is on Estero Island in the Gulf of Mexico.
Many people struggled to get to higher ground amid the storm surge, Allers said.
Instead of where homes stood, there’s only rubble, the council member said.
“Every home pretty much on the beach is gone,” Allers said. “Some of the homes on the side streets are completely gone, and there’s nothing but a hole with water,” he said.
Allers, who evacuated to higher ground during the storm, later discovered that his own home was lost.
“Everything obviously inside was gone,” he said, although the structure survived. “We might be able to rebuild,” he added.
Hurricane Ian is intensifying as it moves toward the coast of South Carolina and, according to NOAA Tides and Currents, it could hit the state around high tide on Friday.
In Charleston, a city that is especially vulnerable to coastal flooding, the high tide is at 11:41 a.m. ET. In Myrtle Beach, high tide is at 11:18 a.m. ET.
Hurricane Ian is expected to move onshore near or just after these high tide times, according to forecasts.
Why this is important: Tidal ranges along the Eastern Seaboard are much larger than they are in the Gulf of Mexico. Ian initially made landfall in Cuba before hitting the southwestern coast of Florida on Wednesday.
In Charleston and Myrtle Beach, the difference in water levels from high to low tide is around 6 feet. This could be critical because a storm surge of 4-7 feet on top of high tide will exacerbate the flooding in low-lying areas.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks about the likely impact of Hurricane Ian on South Carolina on Sept. 28.
Gov. Henry McMaster told residents of South Carolina to pay attention to the warnings for Hurricane Ian’s track ahead of the system making landfall Friday morning.
“We know what’s coming,” McMaster said at a news conference Thursday. “There’s a little bit of wiggle room in exactly how strong the rains and how strong the wind will be, but the biggest variable is human reaction. It’s people failing to take the necessary precautions. That’s the real danger that we have, is human error.”
McMaster said that residents should prep for the storm before it arrives.
“Doesn’t make much difference whether this comes in at Hurricane strength or below at storm strength or somewhere on the line, cause it’s going to be blowing strong winds and it’s going to be all over the state at different levels, as you can see if you go look at those maps,” he said.
A boat sits in the middle of a street in Fort Myers, Florida on Thursday.
Hurricane Ian is shaping up to be the largest natural disaster in Florida history, according to the state’s fire marshal.
Florida is also seeing its largest-ever emergency response, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Thursday night. In Florida, the state CFO also serves as state fire marshal.
“The United States Coast Guard has been amazing,” Patronis said. “They have done over 30 aerial rescues in the last 24 hours on 30 sorties.”
Meanwhile, 24,000 utility workers are trying to restore power.
The Florida National Guard has delivered teams to Captiva Island where a major bridge collapsed. Patronis said his crews are going door-to-door there, checking on people that may be stranded.
The fire marshal said the devastation in the Fort Myers area reminds him of the damage left behind by Hurricane Michael in 2018, when communities with older infrastructure and older building codes also took the brunt of the storm.
Damaged and missing homes are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
Following a tour of storm-ravaged parts of the state Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said some of the damage he saw was “indescribable.”
At a news conference Thursday night, the governor said the worst damage was on Fort Myers Beach.
DeSantis said he is still not prepared to discuss a statewide death toll from Ian, but said they “absolutely expect to have mortality from this hurricane.” A CNN tally of reports from local officials indicates that at least 17 people died in Florida due to the storm.
The governor said rescue crews are still responding to people on Sanibel Island, where the only bridge providing access to the island is now impassible, but most people they’ve encountered want to stay in their homes.
More than 2.2 million Florida customers are without power, as outages are slowly fixed, according to PowerOutage.us.
Earlier on Thursday, 2.6 million customers were reported to be in the dark.
Some of the counties with the highest percentage of customers without power are the southwestern counties of Hardee, Charlotte, Lee and Highlands.
A Lee County sheriff’s deputy re-directs traffic alerting drivers that access to Matlacha was closed on September 29.
Matlacha, a tiny island between Pine Island and the Florida mainland, is completely cut off after Hurricane Ian, according to resident Chip Farrar.
“There’s a big misconception that the Matlacha Bridge is out, and I just want to clarify that the bridge is not out, but the road that leads to the bridge has 50 feet missing that was just washed away,” Farrar told CNN on Thursday.
As a result, Farrar said people on the island cannot drive to the mainland. A bridge located nearby has also collapsed, Farrar said.
Farrar has lived in Florida for more than 20 years and had never seen a storm as bad as Hurricane Ian.
“We were as prepared as we could be,” Farrar said. “I’ve been here since 2000. And I’ve never seen anything remotely close to this, including Charley.”
Charley struck Florida in 2004 as a Category 4 hurricane.
A home burns after Hurricane Ian passed through the area in Sanibel, Florida on September 29.
Mayor of Sanibel Holly Smith said Thursday she plans to fly out to the hard-hit island tomorrow to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.
While speaking with CNN’s John Berman, Smith reacted to on-air images of the destruction.
“I just want to say some of these images that you’re showing me… it’s the first time I’ve seen them, Smith said. “So, when I take a look at it, it’s pretty emotional for me.”
Earlier Thursday. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Sanibel Causeway — the only connection to the mainland for Sanibel and Captiva islands — will need either a major overhaul or a complete rebuild.
Smith says one of her priorities is to assess the island’s power grid and clear roads to make sure it is safe for the residents who stayed behind.
When asked if the island was still livable for those who were there, Smith responded:
“Frankly, no but they do have the right to stay there. And right now, you know, it’s important for us to just go ahead and say ‘OK, do you have food and water? Are you OK?’, as we go to those next areas because it’s going to take a few days for us to get to all of the places.”
The entrance to the Walt Disney theme park is seen closed in Lake Buena Vista, Florida as Hurricane Ian approached on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
The Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World will be the first theme park to open Friday as part of a phased resumption of activities at the Orlando-based entertainment complex, the company said late Thursday.
According to the timeline, the openings will be as follows:
- 10:00 a.m.: Magic Kingdom Park
- 11:00 a.m.: EPCOT
- 12:00 p.m.: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- 1:00 p.m.: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
However, Disney Resort guests and those staying at other select hotels will be entitled to early entry that begins two hours prior to the listed times, the company said.
Among the other attractions, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf will reopen at 3:00 p.m. and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will open from 5:00 to 8:00 pm for scheduled events.
Some attractions won’t re-open Friday, the company said.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park will re-open on Sunday, and the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf and Fairways Miniature Golf will stay “temporarily closed” for now.
Recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian will take weeks, if not months, according to Naples city officials.
At a news conference Thursday, city manager Jay Boodheshwar said the damage is widespread.
City Property damage is coming in at an estimate of $20 million, he said. But the value of property damage has not yet been assessed, although a conservative estimate puts the total at $200 million or more.
According to Fire Chief Pete DiMaria, who also spoke at the briefing, search and rescues are still being conducted and residents are urged not to call 911 unless it’s an emergency.
A curfew that was put in place Wednesday is no longer in effect, but officials warned people to stay off the roads because many of them are still hazardous.
“Do not drive on these roads, and please refrain from wading in these waters. There are dangerous objects that cannot be seen from the surface, and we want to want to make sure that people don’t turn this high water situation into recreational opportunities,” Boodheshwar said.
A boil water notice remains in effect, according to Boodheshwar, who said the water treatment facility is operating but there are pressure issues. Crews are continuing to search for breaks and leaks throughout the system.
He is urging residents to use bottled water and boil water when cooking.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is urging people in his state to prepare for Tropical Storm Ian which is forecasted to impact the East Coast after leaving Florida.
“In recent hours Ian has reminded us of the dangerous unpredictability of these storms as its track continues to change,” Cooper said at a media conference Thursday afternoon.
Cooper said North Carolina residents can expect to feel the effects of the storm by tomorrow.
“So, for North Carolinians, I want to be clear, this storm can still be dangerous and even deadly,” he said. “Heavy rains, up to seven inches in some areas, are likely to bring flooding. Landslides are a threat in our mountains and there’s a chance of tornados statewide.”
Coastal flooding, heavy rain, and gusty winds are also likely as this storm passes through, according to Cooper.
In addition to weather, the governor said there is a potential for power outages over the weekend.
Cooper declared a state of emergency this week and has activated members of the state’s national guard to help with storm response, along with the state’s emergency operations center.
South Carolina and Georgia’s coastlines could be significantly impacted by storm system Ian, according to a new US Geological Survey coastal change forecast released on Thursday.
At 5 p.m. on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center forecast that newly strengthened Hurricane Ian would hit the South Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm on Friday. Storm surge is anticipated to reach between 4 to 7 feet in South Carolina from Edisto Beach to Murrells Inlet, including Charleston, it said.
USGS researchers are forecasting the waves and surges caused by Ian may cause 11% of South Carolina’s and 1% of Georgia’s dunes along sandy beaches to be inundated — meaning continuously covered by ocean water.
“This is the most severe type of storm effect on coastal beaches, with flooding behind the dunes that may impact coastal communities,” the USGS said.
In addition, approximately 43% of South Carolina’s and 24% of Georgia’s dunes along sandy beaches are expected to be overwashed by Ian. Overwash is considered the second most severe level of coastal damage, taking place when water levels reach higher than the top of dunes.
“When a beach is overwashed, sand can be pushed and deposited inland, causing significant changes to coastal landscapes and blocking roadways,” the USGS said. “Overwash can reduce the height of protective sand dunes, alter beach profiles and leave areas behind the dunes more vulnerable to future storms.”
In South Carolina 99% of the dunes and in Georgia 77% of dunes are projected to face some level of erosion caused by Ian, the USGS said. Erosion at the base of sand dunes is considered the least severe level of storm damage on sandy shorelines.