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The U.S. death toll from Hurricane Ian rose to at least 31 people on Saturday as rescue crews in Florida meticulously searched for survivors and the Carolinas began assessing damage after one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the nation.
As of Saturday, more than 1,000 people had been rescued along Florida’s southwest coast, National Guard chief Daniel Hokanson said.
Of the 31 confirmed dead, 27 were from Florida. Four people died in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said Saturday.
Now a post-tropical cyclone, Ian spun northward over central North Carolina on Saturday after pounding the South Carolina coast and devastating parts of Florida.
More than 300,000 customers in North Carolina and nearly 100,000 in Virginia were out of power as of Saturday morning, according to poweroutage.us.
In South Carolina, nearly 60,000 people were still without power after Ian downed trees and flooded streets.
Over now 1.2 million people remained without power in Florida as officials assessed the damage and search and rescue efforts continued. The storm left a trail of destruction across the state, inundating areas on both coasts, ripping houses off their plates and destroying beachfront businesses.
President Joe Biden said Friday that Hurricane Ian “will likely be among the worst in the nation’s history” and will take Florida “months – years – to rebuild.”
RECEIVE TEXT UPDATES:Sign up for SMS updates on Ian here.
►In South Carolina near Myrtle Beach, the end of the Pawleys Island pier collapsed and floated as Ian landed, according to a Twitter post from the Pawleys Island Police Department.
► Kevin Captain, Florida’s Volusia County Community Information Director, said at a news conference Friday afternoon that Daytona International Speedway was inundated by Hurricane Ian. “Even our legendary speedway is under water,” he said.
►Cubans protested for a second night Friday over delays in restoring power to the country after Hurricane Ian knocked out power across the island.
Heavy rain hits the central Appalachian Mountains in the mid-Atlantic
Heavy rains were forecast for the central Appalachian Mountains and mid-Atlantic Saturday morning as Ian hiked through central North Carolina and toward Virginia. according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm is expected to weaken and dissipate over south-central Virginia by Saturday night.
But until then, Ian will bring gusty winds and drop 2 to 4 inches of rain with local highs of 6 inches on the central Appalachian Mountains and mid-Atlantic coast, where limited flash flooding and urban flooding may occur.
Major river flooding is expected in parts of central Florida through next week, but waves seen in the Southeast should subside over the weekend.
“BABY IT’S TIME TO GO”:Florida firstborn mother gives birth amid Ian’s wrath
A WAY OF DESTRUCTION:Photos show the damage from Hurricane Ian in Cuba, Florida, Carolinas
The death toll is likely to rise in Florida and other states
The destruction left in my wake by Ian has made it difficult to know quickly how many perished in the storm, but the death toll has risen to 31, the Associated Press said on Saturday.
On Friday morning, Florida Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie said there had been as many as 21 deaths, but only one had been confirmed as a result of the storm, while officials were evaluating 20 other deaths.
Among the newly reported deaths in Florida were a 62-year-old woman who was injured and drowned after a tree fell on an RV, a 54-year-old man who was found trapped in a window after drowning, and a woman who tangled in wires in Florida’s Lee County.
Most of the 27 people who died in Florida drowned, but others died in the aftermath of the storm, including an elderly couple who died after their oxygen machines lost power.
The storm also killed at least four people in North Carolina, including a 25-year-old man whose vehicle aquaplaned, a 24-year-old woman whose vehicle skidded off a wet road and crashed into a tree, a 22-year-old man who was in his Truck drowned, and a 65-year-old man who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from his generator Gov. Cooper said in a statement Saturday.
“We mourn with the families of those who have died and urge everyone to exercise caution when cleaning up to avoid further death or injury,” Cooper said.
Before reaching Florida, Ian also swept through Cuba earlier this week, killing three people.
Posttropical Cyclone Ian tracker
After slowly moving through Florida, Ian regained strength over the Atlantic on Thursday before wreaking havoc in South Carolina, Georgia and more states along the east coast.
It weakened to a posttropical cyclone on Friday afternoon and was 160 miles west-southwest of Richmond, Virginia at 11:00 a.m. Saturday and moving north-northeast at a speed of 10 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 25 miles per hour , said the hurricane center.
Catch up on the latest updates on the strength of the storm here and where it’s headed next.
FLORIDIANS FLEEING IAN:They found refuge – and slot machines in a casino
The recreation begins in Venice, Florida
VENICE, Fla. — Power, traffic lights and cell phone service improved on Saturday as returning residents jostled for gas and hot meals in food trucks parked in gated restaurant lots. Heavy equipment rolled through on trailers, and due to the flood-related safety closure of nearby Interstate 75, there were major detours.
Arborists, water damage repairmen and electricians were busy restoring service in an area that experienced high winds but relatively less damage than neighboring Edgewater.
After getting up, Douglas Schuler, 75, waited an hour in line at Costco to get gas for his generator, which he shares with neighbors. He said he still doesn’t have reliable cellphone service but wanted people to know his neighborhood in the south Venice area is recovering.
“I have relatives in the Midwest who are probably wondering if we’re okay,” he said. “We’re a lot better off than most.”
After fetching gas, Schuler loaded his SUV with a chainsaw and other equipment to clear broken tree branches around the South Venice Baptist Church, where he is scheduled to be ordained a deacon on Sunday.
He saw a few of his parishioners and encouraged them to attend Sunday services, but wasn’t sure who would actually show up.
“We’ll see how many come,” he said. “We will try to make life feel normal.”
– Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY
Inland Florida choked by river flooding
Rising waters continue to wreak havoc in Florida, where river flooding continues long after the winds have died down.
As torrential rains pour into the suburbs and inland, ongoing river flooding shows Ian’s impact extends far beyond Florida’s beaches and coastal towns.
The rising water has turned streets into canals, flooded vehicles and trapped families in flooded homes. In North Port, a Sarasota suburb, residents are running out of food and water.
“The water just keeps rising,” said Samuel Almanzar, 42. “Who knows when it’ll stop.”
Local officials said some areas will see rising water levels over the next two days and encouraged residents of the flooded neighborhoods to evacuate.
Crews from 30 states rush to restore power to Florida
Of its 2.1 million customers who lost power after Hurricane Ian, Florida Power & Light, a utility that serves about half of Florida residents, restored power to two-thirds of them, or 1.4 million customers, said Bryan Garner, a spokesman for the company. said USA TODAY on Saturday.
Crews of about 21,000 people, including those delivering aid from 30 states, are working to restore power to the remaining customers, most of whom can count on power by next week. Garner said FPL will have clearer timelines for the hardest-hit communities by Saturday night.
“There is likely to be such catastrophic damage in these hardest-hit areas that there will be homes and businesses that won’t be able to get power even if we get the grid fixed,” he said. “Some homes and businesses might need some remodeling and electricians might need to come in, so they might be out for an extended period of time.”
Floods expected but still ‘heartbreaking’
As Ian soaked some areas with up to 17 inches of rain, flood waters poured into homes from scenic lakes, ponds and rivers, forcing emergency evacuations and rescue operations.
Researchers studying floods, development and climate change were appalled but not surprised by the emerging images. For years, they have warned that sprawling development in Florida and other coastal states is unsustainable, especially given the warming climate that is intensifying hurricane rainfall.
“We expected this days in advance, and it’s still heartbreaking to see so many people stranded,” said Kevin Reed, associate professor of atmospheric science at Stony Brook University in New York.
He and other experts said they expect Ian’s devastation to lead a nudge for Florida to do more to protect residents from future flooding as the warming climate makes natural disasters and rainfall more extreme.
— Dinah Voyles Powder, USA TODAY
At least 25 dead in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona
Less than two weeks after Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico and plunged the island into darkness, The country’s health department said at least 25 people have died from the storm.
The deaths could be either directly or indirectly related to the hurricane, the department said.
Eighteen of the deaths were people over 65, while 15 were men and 10 were women.
Featuring: John Bacon, Thao Nguyen, Jorge Ortiz, Doyle Rice, Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press