Floods trap many in Florida as Ian heads to South Carolina
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) — Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through inundated streets Thursday to save thousands of Floridians trapped amid flooded homes and shattered buildings left by Hurricane Ian, which crossed into the Atlantic Ocean and churned toward another landfall in South Carolina.
Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would make landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane Friday.
The devastation inflicted on Florida began to come into focus a day after Ian struck as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane and one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. It flooded homes on both the state’s coasts, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers.
At least one man was confirmed dead in Florida, while two other people were reported killed in Cuba after the hurricane struck the island Tuesday.
Aerial photos from the Fort Myers area, a few miles west of where Ian struck land, showed homes ripped from their slabs and deposited among shredded wreckage. Businesses near the beach were completely razed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks floated at odd angles beside damaged boats and fires smoldered on lots where houses once stood.
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived in there,” William Goodson said amid the wreckage of the mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach where he’d lived for 11 years.
The hurricane tore through the park of about 60 homes, many of them, including Goodson’s single-wide home destroyed or mangled beyond repair. Wading through waist-deep water, Goodson and his son wheeled two trash cans containing what little he could salvage of his belongings — a portable air conditioner, some tools and a baseball bat.
The road into Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. Cars were left abandoned in the roadway, having stalled when the storm surge flooded their engines.
“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told a news conference. “The amount of water that’s been rising, and will likely continue to rise today even as the storm is passing, is basically a 500-year flooding event.”