September 29, 2022 Hurricane Ian updates

By Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell, Kelly McCleary, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 1:30 a.m. ET, September 30, 2022
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5:30 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

USGS predicts Ian will cause significant changes to the coastlines of Georgia and South Carolina

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar 

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. 

5:15 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Non-emergency lines down in Marco Island, Florida

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

All non-emergency lines at the Marco Island police department are down following Hurricane Ian’s move through Florida’s west coast.

In a statement posted Thursday, officials asked residents to be patient.

The statement advised residents to call Collier County dispatchers at 239-252-9300 if they want to request a welfare check on loved ones.  

It added that residents should keep in mind that neighbors in Collier and Lee Counties are in much more need of urgent services. 

Marco Island, a barrier island south of Naples, has a population of around 16,000, according to the US Census.

4:53 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Hospital system in Lee County evacuating more than 1,000 patients after Ian cut off water supply

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

Lee Health, a large hospital system in Lee County, is evacuating more than 1,000 patients because it doesn’t have water and it’s not clear when the water supply will be restored, said Mary Mayhew, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Hospital Association.

There are teams of state officials that are helping transfer patients, according to Mayhew, and "that process is underway."

Most hospitals in Florida were not damaged when Ian barreled through as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday because of preparations and “work that they’ve done to harden their facilities against the threat of hurricanes,” Mayhew said.

Hospitals were prepared with generators and fuel, so there aren’t any concerns about disruption to power, Mayhew said. But the lack of water is a problem. 

“The biggest issue right now is the damage and destruction to local public utilities, both the electrical grid and the water supply,” she told CNN on Thursday. 

About 1,200 patients were at Lee Health before the hurricane. Mayhew said the hospitals had yet to see people injured in the storm “because the search and rescue operations couldn’t begin until it became safe to be out on the roads.”

4:50 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

South Carolina's Charleston County declares a state of emergency ahead of Ian

From CNN’s Paradise Afshar

A state of emergency has been declared in Charleston County, South Carolina, as residents prepare for the impact of a strengthening Ian. 

The Charleston County Council noted that the county “has moved operations to OPCON 1 meaning a disaster or emergency is imminent,” according to a media release.

Charleston County, which includes the city of Charleston, and has a population of about 413,000, according to the US Census Bureau.

“There is the potential for major flooding tomorrow,” said Charleston County Emergency Management Director Joe Coates. “If you live on a barrier island or a low-lying area that historically floods, and you haven’t moved to higher ground, I recommend you relocate now.”

Ian is expected to intensify from a tropical storm into a hurricane by the time it hits South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

5:07 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

DeSantis says the focus on stabilizing and restoring infrastructure and power, but it will take time

From CNN's Maria Cartaya 

(FL Pool)
(FL Pool)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke about efforts to “stabilize and restore” infrastructure and power in affected communities, during a Thursday afternoon news conference from Charlotte County,  

“We were able to fly out here. The airport is operational,” said DeSantis. “We were happy to see the interstates flowing,” the governor added.  

DeSantis said he understands the rebuilding efforts are just beginning and that much more needed to be done.

The governor noted the utter devastation that hit some areas. 

A home burns on Sanibel Island on Thursday.
A home burns on Sanibel Island on Thursday. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

“Sanibel is destruction,” he said, referring to the island off the coast of Fort Myers.  He described the impact, which washed away three sections of the Sanibel Causeway, as a "really Biblican storm surge.”  

“We’re committed to restoring the infrastructure as needed. That is not going to be an overnight task,” said DeSantis.  

Florida Power & Light has a key role in helping the state recover, the governor said.  

A section of the Sanibel Causeway was washed away.
A section of the Sanibel Causeway was washed away. (Steve Helber/AP)

“This is a 24/7 effort to stabilize and restore,” he added. 

DeSantis was joined by First Lady Casey DeSantis, President of Florida Power & Light Eric Silagy, Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie, and others.  

Silagy said FPL has about 20,000 crews across the state. 

“We have 1.2 million customers who are out of power, but we have been able to restore over 700,000 customers before the storm even left the state,” Silagy said.  

4:45 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Orlando is dealing with historic flooding, officials say

From CNN’s Andy Rose

People paddle in a canoe near a submerged vehicle in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.
People paddle in a canoe near a submerged vehicle in Orlando, Florida on Thursday. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Ian pass, officials in Orlando are warning residents that flooding in parts of the city remains very serious.

“We are seeing historic levels of flooding. In some areas, we had 11 inches. In other areas we had 15,” said Orlando Fire Department Chief Charlie Salazar at a news briefing Thursday.

Standing water is still electrified in some areas, he warned.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the flood waters may remain for some time. “Unfortunately the only way the water is going to go down is to recede naturally,” he said.

“I want to reiterate, don't go out unless you have to,” Dyer added.

4:32 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

More than 1,500 cell sites in Florida knocked offline by Hurricane Ian

From CNN’s Brian Fung

More than 1,500 cell sites across Florida have been knocked offline due to Hurricane Ian — representing nearly 11% statewide, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  

The damage varies by county, with some areas such as Lee County, where Ian made landfall, is reporting a loss of service at more than 65% of cell sites, according to a daily FCC report assessing the hurricane's impact on communications services. 

Other Florida counties with half or more of their cell sites out of operation include Charlotte, Hardee, Hendry and Highlands. 

Loss of cell sites does not necessarily imply a loss of wireless service as network providers such as Verizon have readied mobile cell sites and generators to provide backup connectivity in response to the storm, the FCC said.

If communication is impacted, the National Weather Service said there are some things to keep in mind. This includes reaching out to people through text messages or email instead of making phone calls. These calls can cause the network to become congested.

Read more:

4:28 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Recovery will take weeks if not months, Naples officials say

From CNN’s Amy Simonson

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. 

4:12 p.m. ET, September 29, 2022

Walt Disney World will reopen in phases starting Friday

From CNN’s Andy Rose

The Walt Disney Company says Disney World operations in Orlando will begin reopening on Friday as Tropical Storm Ian moves out of the area.

“While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests today, we anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Walt Disney World Resort will resume theme park and Disney Springs operations in a phased approach starting on Friday, Sept. 30.”

Disney says exact hours of operation Friday will be updated later.