Hurricane Ian up to date: Storm downgraded to cyclone after making landfall in South Carolina; Florida loss of life toll soars

CHARLESTON, SC– The Florida death toll from Hurricane Ian rose to 33 Friday afternoon, ABC News reports, as Florida authorities confirmed multiple drowning and other deaths Friday afternoon.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the deaths included a 22-year-old woman who was ejected from an ATV rollover because of a road wash in Manatee County on Friday and a 71-year-old man who died from head injuries in a fall from the roof while setting up rain shutters on Wednesday. Many of the other deaths were drownings, including a 68-year-old woman who was washed out to sea by a wave.

Another three people died in Cuba as the storm moved north earlier in the week. The death toll was expected to rise significantly given emergency officials a chance to search many areas hardest hit by the storm.

Ian made landfall just after 2 p.m. Friday as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 85 miles per hour near Georgetown, South Carolina. It was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone hours later.

Click here for live radar and the latest predictions on Ian’s journey.

PHOTOS: Haunting aerial images show the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Sanibel Island

Damaged homes and debris are shown after Hurricane Ian on Thursday, September 29, 2022 in Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

AP Photo/Wilfred Lee

A revived Hurricane Ian battered the South Carolina coast on Friday, tearing apart piers and filling neighborhoods with calf-deep water after the deadly storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped thousands in their homes.

Ian’s center made landfall near Georgetown in much weaker winds than Wednesday’s when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast, in one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States. As it swept over South Carolina, Ian went from being a hurricane to being a post-tropical cyclone.

Rain showers battered trees and power lines, submerging many areas on the peninsula in downtown Charleston. Four piers along the coast, including two at Myrtle Beach, collapsed in the churning waves and were washed away. Online cameras showed up to calf-high neighborhoods in Garden City filled with seawater.

Ian left a wide swath of destruction in Florida, flooding areas on both coasts, ripping houses off their panels, destroying beachfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power. At least nine people have been confirmed dead in the US – a number expected to rise as officials confirm more deaths and search for people.

Rescue teams steered boats and waded through river streets on Thursday to rescue thousands of people trapped between flooded homes and destroyed buildings.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that crews went door-to-door to over 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.

“It was really a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Among those killed were an 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who were dependent on oxygen equipment that stopped working during power outages, and a 67-year-old man who was awaiting rescue and fell into rising water at his home, they said the authorities.

Officials fear the death toll could rise significantly given the vast territory inundated by the storm.

Florida Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie said responders had so far focused on “hasty” searches aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, which would be followed by two more waves of searches. First responders who come across possible remains leave them without confirmation, he said on Friday, describing the case of a submerged house as an example.

“The water was above the roof, yes, but we had a Coast Guard lifeguard swim in and he could tell it was human remains. We don’t know exactly how many,” Guthrie said.

In a desperate bid to find and rescue loved ones, social media users have been sharing phone numbers, addresses and photos of their family members and friends online with anyone who can check on them.

MORE: A chunk of the Sanibel Causeway crashes into the sea during Ian, cutting off the island of Florida, home to 6.3k people

A damaged causeway to Sanibel Island is seen following Hurricane Ian Thursday, September 29, 2022 near Sanibel Island, Florida.

AP Photo/Wilfred Lee

Orlando residents returned to their flooded homes Friday, rolling up their pants to wade through muddy, knee-high water on their streets. Friends of Ramon Rodriguez delivered ice, bottled water and hot coffee at the entrance to his subdivision, where 10 of the 50 homes were flooded and the street looked like a lake. He had no electricity or food in his house and his car was trapped in the water.

“There’s water everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “The situation here is pretty bad.”

Students at the University of Central Florida, who live in an apartment complex near the Orlando campus, came to take belongings from their sodden units.

Deandra Smith, a nursing student, slept when others were evacuated and stayed in her third-floor apartment with her dog. Other students helped her get her to shore Friday by pushing her on a pontoon through the flooded parking lot. She wasn’t sure whether to return to her childhood home in South Florida or seek somewhere to stay so she can continue attending classes. “I’m still trying to figure it out,” she said.

RELATED: Hurricane Ian leaves trail of devastation in Florida with billions of dollars in damage

The devastating storm surge destroyed many older homes on the offshore island of Sanibel, Florida, and carved cracks in the sand dunes. Higher residential buildings were intact, but the bottom floor had been blown out. Trees and power poles were scattered everywhere.

City rescue workers, private teams and the Coast Guard used boats and helicopters on Friday to evacuate residents who stayed because of the storm and were then cut off from the mainland when a levee collapsed. Volunteers, who went to the island in private watercraft, helped escort an elderly couple to an area, where they were boarded a helicopter by Coast Guard rescuers.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida Peninsula, Ian regained his strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. Ian landed in South Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). When it hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, it was a powerful Category 4 hurricane traveling at 150 mph.

After the heaviest rain swept through Charleston, Will Shalosky examined a large elm tree in front of his home that had fallen across his downtown street. He found the damage could have been far worse.

RELATED: Hurricane Ian could cause $65 billion in damage

“If that tree had fallen any other way, it would have been in our house,” Shalosky said. “It’s pretty scary, pretty upsetting.”

In North Carolina, heavy rain bands and winds crept into the state on Friday afternoon. Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents to be vigilant as up to 8 inches of rain could fall in some areas in high winds.

“Hurricane Ian is on our doorstep. Expect rain and sustained high winds over most of our state,” Cooper said. “Our message today is simple: be smart and be safe.”

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he was ordering “every possible action to save lives and assist survivors.”

“Rebuilding will take months, years,” Biden said.

“I just want the people of Florida to know that we see what you’re going through and we’re with you.”


Gomez Licon reported from Punta Gorda, Florida; Associated press staff include Terry Spencer and Tim Reynolds in Fort Myers, Florida; Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein in Washington; and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York.

ABC News contributed to this report

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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