As Florida emergency personnel assessed the devastation in the state, a strengthened Hurricane Ian made landfall in the United States, this time in South Carolina. Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center began tracking a new system with an increasing likelihood of becoming the next Atlantic tropical depression.
The NHC said Ian made landfall at 2:05 p.m. as a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds up to 85 mph near Georgetown, SC between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, SC. The system is moving north at 15 mph.
It soon became a post-tropical cyclone. At 8 p.m. the system was about 45 miles northeast of Florence, SC with 60 mph winds moving north at 15 mph.
The storm left many areas of Charleston’s downtown peninsula underwater. It also washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two in Myrtle Beach. Online cameras showed neighborhoods filled with seawater in Garden City up to calf level.
Before making landfall, sheets of rain lashed trees and power lines and left many areas of Charleston’s downtown peninsula underwater as of midday. A popular pier in the seaside community of Pawleys Island has collapsed and blown away. In Myrtle Beach, waves pushed against the tourist area of the city boardwalk, flowing over where thousands of tourists usually fill the wide stretch of sand
With the entire South Carolina coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, with many likely heeding authorities’ warnings to search for more ground. raised. Storefronts were lined with sandbags to prevent high water levels in an area prone to flooding.
Along the Battery Area, at the southern end of the 350-year-old city’s peninsula, locals and tourists took selfies against a choppy backdrop of whiteheads in Charleston Harbor as palm trees swayed bent under the wind in gusts.
National Guard troops were positioned in South Carolina to help deal with the aftermath, including water rescues. And in Washington, President Joe Biden approved a state emergency declaration, a necessary step to accelerate federal recovery assistance once Ian passes.
The storm surge threat, which battered Florida’s Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane and surges over 15 feet in places on Wednesday, is not as intense for the Carolina coast with only 4-7 feet expected from Edisto Beach to Little River Inlet and lower surges in surrounding areas.
Flooding, still raging across the Florida peninsula that has seen nearly 20 inches of rain in some spots, is of greater concern on the southeast coast.
The hurricane is expected to drop 4 to 8 inches, with some areas up to 12 inches in northeastern South Carolina and 3 to 6 inches with highs of 8 inches in northwestern North Carolina and the southwest Virginia.
“Major record-breaking riverine flooding will continue in central Florida through next week,” forecasters said. “Substantial flash and urban flooding, as well as minor riverine flooding, is possible today in coastal and northeastern South Carolina. Locally significant flash, urban, and small stream flooding is possible. today through Saturday in parts of northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia Limited flooding is possible in parts of the southern mid-Atlantic this weekend.
The hurricane also poses a tornado hazard on its path. Ian’s outer bands spawned several tornadoes as it marched across the Florida peninsula.
Waves along the coast from northern Florida to the mid-Atlantic and the Bahamas are also a risk.
“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip conditions,” forecasters said.
The NHC has started following a new system to become the next depression or tropical storm of the season.
A tropical wave off the west coast of Africa has a wide area of showers and thunderstorms off the west coast of Africa.
“Environmental conditions should be favorable for gradual development, and a tropical depression could form early next week as the system moves west-northwestward over the Atlantic. eastern tropical,” the forecasters said.
The system has a 20% chance of forming within the next two days, but a 70% chance within the next five.
Hurricane season, which runs until November 30, has accelerated since September 1 with the arrival of four hurricanes, including Fiona and Ian, in the past two weeks. The season produced nine named storms and another tropical depression that formed and collapsed as Ian hit Florida. The NHC also tracked another potential cyclone that never developed into a depression, so the next tropical depression would be TD 12. If it does develop into a tropical storm, it would be called Tropical Storm Julia.
Hurricane Ian quickly strengthened into a major hurricane on Wednesday morning with winds of up to 155 mph as it tormented the Gulf Coast of Florida before making landfall in the afternoon in Lee County near Fort Myers and Punta Gorda on a similar track to Hurricane Charley in 2004.
It eased as it moved through central Florida, remaining at hurricane strength through Thursday morning in Osceola County, but regained hurricane strength once that it left the state off Cape Canaveral and intensified further in the Atlantic.
The hurricane is already one of the most devastating to ever hit the United States, as it flooded homes across the state, knocked out power to more than 2.6 million people and caused several dead.
The death toll could rise as relief personnel travel to the hardest-hit areas of Lee and Charlotte counties.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, have been carried out so far and involved the US Coast Guard, National Guard and city search and rescue teams.
DeSantis will provide an update on efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s devastation in Florida from the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee on Friday morning, with the press conference scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m.
Attending will be Florida Emergency Management Division Director Kevin Guthrie, Florida National Guard Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert, and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
The press conference will be broadcast on thefloridachannel.org.
More than 2 million people in the state remain without power as of 6 a.m. Friday, according to poweroutage.us.
In the Fort Myers area, the hurricane ripped homes off their flagstones and left them among the rubble. Businesses near the beach were completely razed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks floated at odd angles alongside damaged boats. Fires were smoldering on land where houses once stood.
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived in there,” said William Goodison amid the wreckage of a mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach where he had lived for 11 years. Goodison said he was only alive because he survived the storm at his son’s home inland.
The hurricane tore through the park of about 60 homes, leaving many homes destroyed or mangled beyond repair, including Goodison’s home. Wading through waist-deep water, Goodison and his son rolled two trash cans containing what little he could salvage – a portable air conditioner, tools and a baseball bat.
The road leading to Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. Cars were left abandoned on the road, having stalled when the storm surge flooded their engines.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his office was struggling to respond to thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges were impassable.
Emergency crews sawed down fallen trees to reach stranded people. Many in the hardest hit areas were unable to call for help due to power and cellphone outages.
A piece of the Sanibel causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people live.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.