World

Ian lashes South Carolina as Florida’s death toll climbs

October 1, 2022 1:30 pm

Wind gusts, blowing down King Street, twist umbrellas during Hurricane Ian in Charleston, S.C. [Source: AP]

A revived Hurricane Ian pounded coastal South Carolina on Friday, ripping apart piers and flooding streets after the ferocious storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands in their homes and leaving at least 17 people dead.

The powerful storm, estimated to be one of the costliest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S., has terrorized people for much of the week — pummeling western Cuba and raking across Florida before gathering strength in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean to curve back and strike South Carolina.

While Ian’s center came ashore near Georgetown, South Carolina, on Friday with much weaker winds than when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week, the storm left many areas of Charleston’s downtown peninsula under water. It also washed way parts of four piers along the coast, including two at Myrtle Beach.

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Online cameras showed seawater filling neighborhoods in Garden City to calf level. As Ian moved across South Carolina on its way to North Carolina Friday evening, it dropped from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.

Ian left a broad swath of destruction in Florida, flooding areas on both of its coasts, tearing homes from their slabs, demolishing beachfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power.

Many of the deaths were drownings, including that of a 68-year-old woman swept away into the ocean by a wave. A 67-year-old man who was waiting to be rescued died after falling into rising water inside his home, authorities said.

Other storm-related fatalities included a 22-year-old woman who died after an ATV rollover from a road washout and a 71-year-old man who fell off a roof while putting up rain shutters. An 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who relied on oxygen machines also died after the equipment stopped working during power outages.

Another three people died in Cuba earlier in the week as the storm churned northward. The death toll was expected to increase substantially once emergency officials have an opportunity to search many of the hardest-hit areas.

Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through riverine streets in Florida after the storm to save thousands of people trapped amid flooded homes and shattered buildings .

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that crews had gone door-to-door to over 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.

“There’s really been a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Hurricane Ian has likely caused “well over $100 billion” in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to the disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & Company, which regularly issues flash catastrophe estimates. If those numbers are borne out, that would make Ian at least the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history.