(NewsNation) — There are at least 27 confirmed deaths related to Hurricane Ian, according to state and local officials. The toll could rise substantially, however, given the wide swath of Florida swamped by the storm.
Sheriff Carmine Marceno on Friday confirmed 16 deaths in Lee County as a result of Hurricane Ian.
In Charlotte County, officials say there have been six storm-related deaths confirmed, NBC 2 reported. In Volusia County, a 72-year-old man from Deltona drowned after officials say he went outside during the hurricane to drain his pool.
Two deaths have been confirmed in Sarasota County by the sheriff’s office.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said one death was reported in Lake County.
At a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said there was one confirmed death in Polk County and 20 more unconfirmed fatalities.
There were 12 unconfirmed deaths in Charlotte County and eight unconfirmed fatalities in Collier County, according to Guthrie.
The news follows statements from President Joe Biden on Thursday saying the death toll following Hurricane Ian may be “substantial.”
“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” Biden said, speaking at FEMA’s headquarters. “The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing what may be reports of substantial loss of life.”
Both the updated death count and Biden’s comments confirm statements from Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister who, speaking with the sheriff in Lee County, says they suffered “catastrophic loss and total devastation” and that the death toll is believed, but not yet confirmed, to be in the hundreds.
Likewise, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said Lee and Charlotte counties are “basically off the grid” due to widespread power outages during a press conference in Tallahassee, Florida.
According to NHC officials, many hurricane-related deaths occur days after the storm has passed. These “indirect deaths” are primarily from excessive heat and carbon monoxide poisoning from running generators indoors.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed search and rescue missions have discovered deaths following Hurricane Ian.
“We remain optimistic that our search and rescue efforts will be fruitful, and we ask that residents remain safely indoors to prevent any additional unnecessary deaths,” public information officer Chris Hall told NewsNation.
Lee County’s Sheriff Marceno expressed the same sentiment during an interview with “Good Morning America.” Marceno said he feared the death toll could be in the “hundreds” although, at the time, he did not have “confirmed numbers” on any potential death toll.
Marceno went on to say that although they were receiving thousands of 911 calls — from places that included Fort Myers — the roadways and bridges were impassable.
“It crushed us,” Marceno said. “We still cannot access many of the people that are in need.”