30 September 2022

Hurricane Ian heads for Carolinas after catastrophic destruction in Florida

30 September 2022

A revived Hurricane Ian has set its sights on South Carolina’s coast and the historic city of Charleston, with forecasters predicting a storm surge and floods after the storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and left people trapped in their homes.

With all of South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, many heeding warnings to seek higher ground. Storefronts were sandbagged to ward off high water levels in an area prone to inundation.

With winds holding at 85mph, the National Hurricane Centre placed Ian about 105 miles south east of Charleston and forecast a “life-threatening storm surge” and hurricane conditions along the Carolina coastal area later on Friday.

The hurricane warning stretched from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, with flooding likely across the Carolinas and south-western Virginia.

The forecast predicted a storm surge of up to 7ft into coastal areas of the Carolinas, and rainfall of up to 8in.

In Florida, rescue crews piloted boats and waded through flooded streets to save thousands of Floridians trapped in homes and buildings shattered by Hurricane Ian.

State governor Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, were conducted on Thursday involving the US Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search-and-rescue teams.

Ian came ashore on Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the US.

It flooded homes on both the state’s coasts, cut off the only road access to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.6 million homes and businesses. Some 2.1 million of those customers remained in the dark days afterward.

Climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian, according to a study prepared immediately after the storm, said its co-author, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab climate scientist Michael Wehner.

At least six people were confirmed dead in Florida, including two who died when their car hydroplaned and overturned in a water-filled ditch in Putnam County.

Three other people were reported killed in Cuba after the hurricane struck there on Tuesday.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength on Thursday evening over the Atlantic.

The National Hurricane Centre predicted it would hit South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.

National Guard troops were being positioned in South Carolina to help with the aftermath, including any water rescues.

In Washington, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state to speed federal assistance for recovery once Ian passes.

The storm is on track to later hit North Carolina, forecasters said. Governor Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for torrents of rain, high winds and potential power outages.

Visiting the state’s emergency operations centre on Thursday, he said up to 7in of rain could fall in some areas, with the potential for mountain landslides and tornadoes state-wide.

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