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Ian, now a post-tropical cyclone, was moving farther inland Friday night after pummeling South Carolina with fierce winds and a destructive storm surge, less than two days after killing at least 45 people in Florida and leaving behind an apocalyptic path of destruction.
The storm made its second landfall in the US near Georgetown, South Carolina, Friday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane. By Friday night, it was continuing to pack 60 mph winds but was expected to weaken overnight and dissipate over North Carolina or Virginia late Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Flash flooding was possible in parts of North and South Carolina and southeast Virginia Friday night, while the storm also threatened parts of eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia with tornadoes through Saturday morning, the hurricane center added.
Two days earlier, Ian made landfall along Florida’s southwestern coast as a major Category 4 hurricane, ravaging coastal communities, turning roads into streams and leaving behind wreckage and debris.
As communities in the Sunshine State were beginning to pick up the pieces after the powerful storm, authorities in South Carolina late Friday began assessing the damage to their state. Authorities in Pawleys Island, a coastal South Carolina town roughly 70 miles north of Charleston, were cataloging the damage Friday night.
Two piers in the state – Cherry Grove Pier in North Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island Pier – partially collapsed due to the storm. Water had receded on the two causeways, but Pawleys Island police announced they were not letting anyone back on the island until safety assessments were conducted in the morning.
More than 128,000 customers were in the dark across the state as of 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to poweroutage.us. In North Carolina, more than 330,000 customers were out of power and in Florida, more than 1.4 million.
Knee-deep water inside homes
In North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Kyle Faust waded through knee-deep water inside his home Friday after the storm roared through. Across Horry County, where the city is located, officials reported Friday night crews were conducting damage assessments and clearing debris, while some roads remained closed.
Myrtle Beach Police urged residents to stay inside and not drive on flooded roadways.
“It’s a pretty scary sight,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune remarked earlier of Hurricane Ian. “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. We’ve seen so many people’s cars get stuck, and emergency personnel has to go out and rescue people.”
Shelters in Charleston County will remain open until 4 p.m. on Saturday, the county wrote in a news release. Buses will start taking people from the shelters back to the original pick-up locations Saturday morning.
“A lot of prayers have been answered,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said. “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.”
Charleston International Airport’s airfield closed Friday because of high winds and extended the closure until Saturday morning, the airport said.
In Florida: At least 45 reported dead
Florida, meanwhile, confronted the dizzying destruction Ian wrought through much of the peninsula Wednesday and Thursday after it smashed into the southwest coast and plowed through central and northeastern areas.
At least 45 deaths have been reported in the state. Among them, friends of Kevin Behen, who told CNN on Friday night he knew of two men who died making sure their wives were able to escape the home they were all sheltering in that began to flood.
“These guys pushed their wives out the windows to where a tree was,” Behen explained. “They just looked at their wives and they said, ‘We can’t hold on anymore, we love you. Bye,’ and that was it.”
Homes on the coast were washed out to sea, buildings were smashed throughout the state, and floodwater ruined homes and businesses and trapped residents, even inland in places like the Orlando area.
Hundreds of rescues have taken place by land, air and sea, with residents stuck in homes or stranded on rooftops, and searchers have made many wellness checks, especially in the Fort Myers and Naples areas, where a storm surge inundated streets and homes.
“It looked as though someone had just dropped from the sky picked up hotels and buildings and took them away,” Lee County manager Roger Desjarlais said. “We also know that not as many people evacuated from those islands as we had hoped for. We know there has to be many fatalities yet to be accounted for.”
Ian may have caused as much as $47 billion in insured losses in Florida, according to an estimate from property analytics firm CoreLogic, which could make it the second-most expensive storm in the state’s history when adjusted for inflation after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
President Joe Biden continued to pledge federal support for Florida as it deals with the devastation caused by the storm, which he noted was “likely to rank among the worst … in the nation’s history” and will likely take “months, years” to rebuild.
And the storm’s aftermath poses new, deadly dangers of its own. Some standing water is electrified, officials warned, while maneuvering through debris-strewn buildings and streets – many without working traffic signals – risks injury. Lack of air conditioning can lead to heat illness, and improper generator use can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Many without homes, water, power
Claudette Smith, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office in Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers, told CNN the county is in desperate need of help as emergency services continue to be inundated.
“We need everything, to put it plain and simple. We need all hands on deck,” Smith stressed. “The people who have come to our assistance have been tremendously helpful, but we do need everything.”
Many members of the community are without homes, water, and electricity, and there is currently only one operating hospital in the county.
Here’s what to know about the destruction in Florida:
• Deaths in Florida: At least 45 deaths suspected to be related to Ian have been reported in Florida, including 16 in Lee County, 12 in Charlotte County, eight in Collier County, four in Volusia County, one in Polk County, one in Lake County, one in Manatee County and two in unincorporated Sarasota County, according to officials. Unconfirmed death cases are being processed by local medical examiners, who decide whether they are disaster-related, state emergency management Director Kevin Guthrie said.
• Hundreds of rescues and thousands of evacuations: The US Coast Guard has performed over 275 rescues in Florida, Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson told CNN. More than 700 rescues have happened across Florida so far, the governor reported Thursday, and thousands of evacuees have been reported. In Lee County, a hospital system had to evacuate more than 1,000 patients after its water supply was cut off, while other widespread evacuations have been reported in prisons and nursing homes. In Fort Myers, the fire chief was “pretty comfortable” by Friday morning everyone needing help there had been rescued, Mayor Kevin Anderson said. The Coast Guard is treating this like a military operation searching “block by block to make sure that everybody gets out.”
• Historic flooding: Record flooding was recorded across central and northern Florida, including at least three rivers hitting all-time flood records. Officials in Orlando warned residents of dangerous flooding, which exceeded a foot in some areas.
• Much of Fort Myers Beach obliterated: A helicopter flight over Fort Myers Beach shows utter devastation: empty or debris-littered lots where homes and businesses used to be and boats tossed into mangroves. “You’re talking about no structure left. … You’re talking about homes that were thrown into the bay. This is a long-term fix, and it’s life-changing,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said.
• Coastal islands isolated from mainland: Sanibel and Captiva islands in southwest Florida are cut off from the mainland after several parts of a critical causeway were torn away. At least two people were killed in the storm in Sanibel, and the bridge may need to be completely rebuilt, local officials said. Chip Farrar, a resident of the tiny island of Matlacha, told CNN 50 feet of road essential to reaching the mainland bridge has been washed out, and a second nearby bridge has also collapsed.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Virginia Langmaid, Keith Allen, Amir Vera, Eric Levenson, Allison Chinchar, Brandon Miller, Nick Valencia, Carma Hassan, Amanda Musa, Amy Simonson and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.