CHARLESTON, S.C. — A revived Hurricane Ian pounded coastal South Carolina on Friday, ripping apart piers and flooding streets after the ferocious storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida, trapping thousands in their homes and leaving at least 17 people dead.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said the deaths included a 22-year-old woman ejected in an ATV rollover Friday because of a road washout and a 71-year-old man who died earlier of head injuries when he fell off a roof while putting up rain shutters. Many of the other deaths were drownings, including that of a 68-year-old woman swept into the ocean by a wave.
Another three people died in Cuba earlier in the week as the storm churned northward. The death toll was expected to increase substantially once emergency officials have an opportunity to search many of the hardest-hit areas.
Ian’s center came ashore near Georgetown, South Carolina, with much weaker winds than when it crossed Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as one of the strongest storms to ever hit the U.S. As Ian moved across South Carolina, it dropped from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone.
Sheets of rain whipped trees and power lines and left many areas on Charleston’s downtown peninsula under water. Parts of four piers along the coast, including two at Myrtle Beach, collapsed into the churning waves and washed away. Online cameras showed seawater filling neighborhoods in Garden City to calf level.
Ian left a broad swath of destruction in Florida, flooding areas on both of its coasts, tearing homes from their slabs, demolishing beachfront businesses and leaving more than 2 million people without power.
Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through riverine streets in Florida after the storm to save thousands of people trapped amid flooded homes and shattered buildings .
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that crews had gone door-to-door to over 3,000 homes in the hardest-hit areas.
“There’s really been a Herculean effort,” he said during a news conference in Tallahassee.
Officials fear the death toll could rise significantly, given the wide territory swamped by the storm.
Among those killed were an 80-year-old woman and a 94-year-old man who relied on oxygen machines that stopped working amid power outages, as well as a 67-year-old man who was waiting to be rescued and fell into rising water inside his home, authorities said.
Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said first responders have focused so far on “hasty” searches, aimed at emergency rescues and initial assessments, which will be followed by two additional waves of searches. Initial responders who come across possible remains are leaving them without confirming, he said Friday, describing as an example the case of a submerged home.
“The water was up over the rooftop, right, but we had a Coast Guard rescue swimmer swim down into it and he could identify that it appeared to be human remains. We do not know exactly how many,” Guthrie said.
Desperate to locate and rescue their loved ones, social media users shared phone numbers, addresses and photos of their family members and friends online for anyone who can check on them.
Orlando residents returned to flooded homes Friday, rolling up their pants to wade through muddy, knee-high water in their streets. Friends of Ramon Rodriguez dropped off ice, bottled water and hot coffee at the entrance to his subdivision, where 10 of the 50 homes were flooded and the road looked like a lake. He had no power or food at his house, and his car was trapped by the water.
“There’s water everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “The situation here is pretty bad.”