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WEDNESDAY, December 07, 2022
Crews in Florida race to rescue those trapped by Hurricane Ian

Crews in Florida race to rescue those trapped by Hurricane Ian

FRIDAY, September 30, 2022

Emergency crews raced on Thursday to reach stranded Florida residents as Hurricane Ian trained its sights on the Carolinas after cutting a coast-to-coast path of destruction across Florida, leaving behind deadly floodwaters, downed power lines and widespread damage.

Ian, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland, flooded Gulf Coast communities and knocked out power to millions before ploughing across the peninsula to the Atlantic Ocean, where it regained strength ahead of another anticipated landfall in South Carolina on Friday.

Florida's death toll remained uncertain amid scattered reports of casualties.

More than 2.6 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power. Governor Ron DeSantis said that Lee and Charlotte counties, home to more than 900,000 people, were "basically off the grid."

Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were bracing for impact, as Ian - which weakened to a tropical storm during its trek across Florida - returned to hurricane strength by 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT), with maximum sustained wind speeds of 75 miles per hour (120 km per hour), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm was churning off Florida's eastern coast, about 240 miles (540 km) south of Charleston, South Carolina. A hurricane warning was in effect for approximately 230 miles (370 km) of coastline from the South Carolina-Georgia border north to Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Ian blasted ashore in Florida at the barrier island of Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour).

The storm transformed Florida's southwestern shoreline, dotted with sandy beaches, coastal towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as Ian swept seawater into waterfront homes.

By midday on Thursday, residents in hard-hit areas like Venice, located in Sarasota County about 75 miles (120 km) south of Tampa, hunted for family and friends while rescue crews worked to reach people trapped in flooded homes.

The search for loved ones was made more difficult as cellphone services were often cut.

In Punta Gorda, a town directly in the hurricane's path, trees, debris and power lines covered roadways, though many buildings remained standing, having withstood the storm's onslaught better than many had feared.

Biden also approved a disaster declaration, making federal resources available to the counties impacted by the storm.