After pounding portions of Florida and killing more than a dozen people, knocking out electricity to millions, and destroying neighborhoods, Hurricane Ian is now moving toward the state’s shore and is predicted to bring with it a deadly storm surge and devastating winds on Friday.
By early Friday afternoon, at least 14 fatalities from the storm had been reported, seven of them in Charlotte County, not far from where Category 4 Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s southwest coast on Wednesday.
As many as 21 deaths had been reported in Ian’s wake, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie stated during a news conference on Friday, raising the possibility that the death toll may be higher.
However, he said that it was not to be determined how many of those were connected to the storm.
President Joe Biden also cautioned Thursday night that Ian might be to blame for “significant loss of life” and end up being the deadliest storm in Florida’s history after briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel.
“I spoke with the commissioners, and they are worried,” he said.
As of early Friday, more than 2.2 million Florida residents still lacked electricity, with more than 400,000 of those people in Lee County alone.
The extent of the destruction across the state of Florida has been strikingly captured in videos and images that are coming out of Florida. Some of the footage shows valiant rescues of people trapped in submerged cars and wading into floodwaters, while other videos show the devastation left in Ian’s wake.
On Friday morning, Ian plowed into South Carolina’s coastline, with the storm’s projected impact later in the day.
The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, but it strengthened back into a hurricane early on Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and higher gusts.
Before Ian approaches the South Carolina coast later on Friday, little change in strength is anticipated.
According to the hurricane center, the storm was about 60 miles east-southeast of Charleston, a port city in South Carolina, and was heading toward the north at a speed of around 14 mph by late Friday morning. Although Ian is anticipated to approach the state’s coast later in the day, it is unclear exactly when and where it will make landfall.
Flooding rains are predicted in the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia in addition to the warning of a life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions.
On Friday night and Saturday, the hurricane center predicts that the storm’s center will cross the Carolinas more inland.
Residents of Cuba are still dealing with the effects of Ian, which caused widespread power disruptions throughout the nation.
As of early this week, the island nation had confirmed at least two hurricane-related fatalities. One individual was killed when a wall collapsed on her, while another was killed when a roof gave way. Cleaning up activities are currently being carried out in the country’s hardest-hit areas.