Ian recovery efforts underway, billions in damages projected

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — Rescuers searched for survivors among the ruins of Florida’s flooded homes from Hurricane Ian while authorities in South Carolina assess damage from its strike there as the remnants of one of the strongest and costliest hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. continued to push north.

The powerful storm terrorized millions of people, battering western Cuba before raking across Florida from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, where it mustered enough strength for a final assault on South Carolina.

Now weakened to a post-tropical cyclone, Ian was expected to move across central North Carolina on Saturday and reach south-central Virginia by the afternoon.

At least 50 people were confirmed dead, including 46 people in Florida mostly from drowning but others from the storm’s tragic aftereffects. An elderly couple died after their oxygen machines shut off when they lost power, authorities said.

NewsNation’s Brooke Shafer traveled a bridge near Fort Myers on Saturday that was still closed to personal vehicles because rescue crews were still scrambling to find survivors and victims of the storm.

Search and rescue team Florida Task Force 2 said they have rescued more than 750 people who rode out the storm on the island.

Four people have been reported dead in North Carolina, according to a release from Gov. Roy Cooper, including the victims of two traffic accidents and a carbon monoxide poisoning.

NewsNation’s Evan Lambert reports Gov. McMaster confirmed there currently are no storm-related deaths in South Carolina, but there is “much cleaning to do.”

As of Saturday, more than 1,000 people had been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwestern coast alone, Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general and head of the National Guard, told The Associated Press while airborne to Florida.

Meanwhile, distraught residents waded through knee-high water, salvaging what possessions they could from their flooded homes and loading them onto rafts and canoes.

Hurricane Ian has likely caused “well over $100 billion’’ in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured losses, according to the disaster modeling firm Karen Clark & Co., which regularly issues flash catastrophe estimates. If those numbers are borne out, that would make Ian at least the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

“I want to sit in the corner and cry. I don’t know what else to do,” Stevie Scuderi said after shuffling through her mostly destroyed Fort Myers apartment, the mud in her kitchen clinging to her purple sandals.

In South Carolina, Ian’s center came ashore near Georgetown, a small community along the Winyah Bay about 60 miles north of historic Charleston. The storm washed away parts of four piers along the coast, including two connected to the popular tourist town of Myrtle Beach.

The storm’s winds were much weaker Friday than during Ian’s landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week. Authorities and volunteers there were still assessing the damage as shocked residents tried to make sense of what they just lived through.

Anthony Rivera, 25, said he had to climb through the window of his first-floor apartment during the storm to carry his grandmother and girlfriend to the second floor. As they hurried to escape the rising water, the storm surge had washed a boat right up next to his apartment.

“That’s the scariest thing in the world because I can’t stop no boat,” he said. “I’m not Superman.”

Even though Ian has long passed over Florida, new problems continued to arise. A 14-mile stretch of Interstate 75 was closed late Friday in both directions in the Port Charlotte area because of the massive mount of water swelling the Myakka River.

“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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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