Hurricane Ian tore across Florida with such force that Vice President Joe Biden predicted it could be the deadliest in the state’s history.
Biden stated Thursday morning, following a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, that while the death toll was still unknown, first assessments indicate that the loss of life could be “significant.”
He stated, “I spoke with the commissioners, and they are concerned.”
As of Thursday evening, 12 storm-related deaths had been recorded, including seven in Charlotte County, a region along the section of the southwest coast where Hurricane Ian made landfall on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking on MSNBC, Charlotte County Commissioner Christopher Constance blamed a county administrator for six of the fatalities. Later, he confirmed a seventh passing.
Two people died in Sarasota County, according to a sheriff’s office spokesperson, while one person drowned while attempting to drain his pool in Volusia County, according to local law enforcement officials.
The causeway connecting Sanibel Island to the mainland of Florida was destroyed by the Category 4 storm, resulting in the deaths of two more persons, according to the island’s city manager on Thursday.
Additional information regarding the victims was not readily accessible.
As of Thursday afternoon, Ian, one of the most violent hurricanes to ever strike the United States, has left approximately 2.3 million people without power. Several hospitals were without water, and tens of thousands of people were stuck in their houses.
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson stated on NBC’s “TODAY” that Ian was one of the fiercest storms he has witnessed in decades, leaving him emotionally devastated.
“It was horrible to watch the water rise from my condo in the center of downtown and flood out all the businesses on the first floor,” he added.
Social media photos and videos depicted images of devastation: flooding inundating Orlando, boats sunk in Fort Myers, and trees broken like toothpicks in Punta Gorda. The destruction of a portion of the Sanibel Causeway prevented vehicles from crossing the bridge.
DeSantis stated that the storm would be ranked as “One of the five strongest hurricanes to ever strike the Florida peninsula. Biden declared a major disaster, releasing federal funds to assist with recovery efforts in affected communities and states.
Ian travels north.
The National Hurricane Center reported that Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday morning before growing to a hurricane and “taking aim for the Carolinas and Georgia with life-threatening floods, storm surge, and severe winds.”
National Hurricane Center reported late Thursday night that Ian was heading northeast at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and stronger gusts as it headed for South Carolina, where it was expected to make landfall on Friday.
The whole coastline of the state was under a hurricane watch, according to the center.
Wednesday about 3 p.m., Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, according to forecasters.
Wednesday night, Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais stated that the county, which encompasses Cayo Costa, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral, had sustained substantial damage.
Before rushing to the aid of those stuck by high water, rescue teams were forced to wait for conditions to improve.
In Lee County, there were also reports of vehicles “floating out into the ocean,” but Sheriff Carmine Marceno stated that officers were unable to investigate or respond to calls from stranded individuals until winds subsided below 45 miles per hour.
“Those in need: We want to reach you, and we will reach you as quickly as possible “Just before 8 p.m., he stated in a video message.
Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Thursday that at least nine hospitals in Lee County lacked water after the storm made landfall on Florida’s southwestern coast.
We are confined.
Terry Mazany, his wife, and his 91-year-old mother hunkered down on the 22nd floor of a Fort Myers high-rise while the water surged and the winds howled.
“We are imprisoned. Eight feet of water surrounds us,” said Mazany, who moved from California to Florida a year ago and told MSNBC. He also observed that the elevators were out of service.
“It started out quite manageable, but for the past 12 hours we’ve been dealing with a freight train of 100-plus mile-per-hour winds,” he said.
Central and northeast Florida were forecast to receive 20 inches of rain, while portions of Florida’s western and eastern coasts were at risk for life-threatening storm surge on Thursday, according to the hurricane center.
The Atlantic coast of Florida from northeast of Orlando to Georgia could experience a 6-foot storm surge, according to the report.
Radar suggested that 4 to 5 inches of rain per hour was falling in the hurricane’s heaviest bands on Wednesday, according to Jamie Rhome, the center’s acting director.
“Those are extremely heavy precipitation rates,” Rhome stated on MSNBC on Wednesday night. The slow speed of the storm was prolonging the damaging winds and increasing the risk of flooding, he warned.
Although experts have not directly linked the storm’s intensity to climate change, the storm’s precipitation estimates are consistent with a larger trend of storms being wetter as the climate warms, allowing the atmosphere to hold more moisture.
As the hurricane travels north toward the Carolinas, the governors of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina have proclaimed states of emergency.