The powerful storm frightened millions of people most days of the week, hitting western Cuba before sweeping Florida from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic, where it mustered enough strength for a final attack on South Carolina. Now weakened by a post-tropical cyclone, Ian was expected to move through central North Carolina on Saturday morning and then move on to Virginia and New York.
At least 30 people have been confirmed dead, including 27 in Florida, most of whom drowned, but others from the tragic effects of the storm. Authorities said an elderly couple died after their oxygen machines stopped when the electricity went out.
Meanwhile, stunned residents waded into knee-level water on Friday, salvaging whatever belongings they could from their flooded homes and loading them onto boats and boats.
“I want to sit in the corner and cry,” Stevie Scuderi said after scouring her mostly devastated apartment in Fort Myers, mud in her kitchen clinging to her purple sandals.
In South Carolina, the Ian Center came ashore near Georgetown, a small community along Winyah Bay 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two connected to the popular tourist town of Myrtle Beach.
The storm’s winds were much weaker on Friday than during Ian’s landing on the Florida Gulf Coast earlier in the week. Authorities and volunteers there are still assessing the damage as traumatized residents try to understand what they have just experienced.
Anthony Rivera, 25, said he had to climb through his first-floor apartment window during the storm to take his grandmother and his girlfriend up to the second floor. As they were rushing to escape the rising waters, a storm swept a boat next to his apartment.
“It’s the scariest thing in the world,” he said, “because I can’t stop any boat.” “I’m not Superman.”
Pawleys Island, a beach community about 73 miles (117 kilometers) off the South Carolina coast from Charleston, was among the places hardest hit by Ian.
Eddie Wilder, who has been coming to Pawleys Island for more than six decades, said Friday’s storm was “crazy to watch.” He said waves as high as 25 feet (7.6 meters) washed the pier just two doors away from his home.
“We watched it hit the pier and we saw the pier disappear,” said Wilder, whose home is 30 feet (9 meters) above the ocean and kept dry inside. “I saw quite a few storms, and this one was severe. … We had a front row seat.”
Pawleys Pier was one of at least four along the South Carolina coast that was destroyed during Ian’s winds and rains.
“We watched it collapse and we watched it float next to the American flag still floating,” Wilder said.
The bridges on Pawleys Island were filled with palm fronds, pine needles, and even kayaks retrieved from the nearby shore. A waterway between the coasts was littered with the remains of many boathouses torn from their poles in the storm.
Although Ian had long since outgrown Florida, new problems continued to emerge. A 14-mile (22-kilometre) stretch of Interstate 75 was closed late Friday in both directions in the Port Charlotte area due to a massive mountain of water inflating the Myakka River.
Ross Giaratana, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said Myakka was hitting a record high of 12.73 feet (3.88 meters) on Saturday morning.
To the southeast, the Peace River was also in a major flood phase early Saturday in Polk, Hardy, and DeSoto counties. Garatana said the majority of those points have yet to be capped.
“It was crazy to look at how fast the rivers were rising,” he said. “We knew we were into some standard stuff.”
The official death toll rose over the course of Friday, with authorities warning that it is likely to rise much higher once crews complete a comprehensive survey of the damage. Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the searches were aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments.
Hurricane Ian likely caused “over $100 billion” in damages, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & Partners, which regularly releases rapid disaster estimates. If these numbers are proven, that would make Ian at least the fourth most expensive hurricane in US history.