Latest updates: South Carolina braces for landfall

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — Hurricane Ian continued to pummel inland Florida on Thursday before moving out over the Atlantic Ocean on its way toward South Carolina.

Ian made landfall Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane on the southwest coast near the heavily populated Fort Myers area.

Maximum sustained winds at one point Wednesday reached 155 mph, only 2 mph short of intensifying to a Category 5 storm with higher wind gusts, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. As of 11 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, maximum sustained winds were at 85 mph.

10:30 p.m. CT: Emergency declaration approved for South Carolina

President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for South Carolina ahead of Ian’s expected landfall Friday. The storm has already been dumping rain on the state and hurricane-force winds and storm surges are expected in areas along the coast as it gets closer.

9:55 p.m. CT: Will there be enough insurance relief money for all those who need it?

Mark Friedlander, the director of communications for the Insurance Information Institute said there “absolutely is” enough insurance money to be distributed in Florida to help all those who need it after Hurricane Ian.

Some projections indicate up to $40-50 billion in damage was inflicted on Florida by the storm.

“Even if an insurance company is struggling financially, Florida has backstops in place,” Friedlander said. “One is the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, the other is the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association.”

9:47 pm. CT: “Nothing was spared”: Sheriff describes devastation of town

Volusia County, Fla. Sheriff Mike Chitwood said while his county did not see the devastation of southwest Florida, they still saw “unprecedented” flooding and wind damage that will cost “tens of millions of dollars.”

9:45 p.m. CT: Power slowly being restored in Florida

Roughly 400,000 people had their power restored in Florida on Thursday as crews scrambled to repair damaged power grid infrastructure. Despite the restoration of power for some, 2.1 million people were still without power Thursday night, according to PowerOutage.us.

9:37 p.m. CT: “We didn’t expect it to be so slow and to just dump rain.”

A mother of nine who weathered Hurricane Ian with her family in Orlando said they were taken by surprise at how slowly the storm crawled across central Florida, bringing with it torrential rains and damaging 150 mph winds.

9:30 p.m. CT: Chiefs-Buccaneers game will be held in Tampa Bay Sunday Night

After speculation the NFL might move the Kansas City Chiefs visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scheduled for Sunday night to Minneapolis, the league decided Thursday to keep the game in Tampa Bay.

“We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm,” the Buccaneers said in a statement. “We have informed the NFL, after consulting with local and state agencies, that we are ready to play Sunday night’s game … at Raymond James Stadium as originally scheduled.”

9:10 p.m. CT: “Kind of mind blowing” Florida resident describes riding out storm for 10 hours

8:40 p.m. CT: “Life threatening” storm surge could hit Carolinas, Georgia, Florida on Friday

The National Weather service said in a tweet “life threatening” storm surges could still sweep through northeast Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia throughout Friday when Hurricane Ian makes landfall.

7:15 p.m. CT: Georgia officials brace for landfall of Hurricane Ian

Combatting storm surge is top of mind for Georgia officials bracing for Hurricane Ian, which has regained strength in the Atlantic Ocean, before it once again makes landfall in Georgia and the Carolinas.

“Our biggest vulnerability is always storm surge,” Savannah, GA., Mayor Van R. Johnson told NewsNation.

A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

6:55 p.m. CT: Thousands of gallons of water, fuel arrive in Florida

20 trucks carrying 60,000 gallons of water were deployed in Florida to deliver water to hospitals that need to to treat patients across parts of Florida torn apart by Hurricane Ian, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. DeSantis also said 330,000 gallons of fuel arrived in Florida’s ports Thursday to be distributed to gas stations around the state.

6:50 p.m. CT: DeSantis says mortality confirmation will take days

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said confirming deaths from Hurricane Ian will happen “in coming days” as officials continue to search through rubble and disaster to find both survivors and people who died during the storm.

DeSantis also said there have been more than 700 confirmed rescues in the state.

5:55 p.m. CT: Survivors pick up pieces, find dead friends, family

Survivors of Hurricane Ian in Florida have spent Thursday sorting through the rubble of their tattered home and businesses, while death totals continue to rise as more bodies are recovered. One man found his neighbor dead clutching a puppy after the storm.

4:08 p.m. CT: Ian upgraded from tropical storm to hurricane again

The National Hurricane Center announced around 4 p.m. CT Thursday Ian once again gained enough strength to be returned to hurricane classification as it crawled through the Atlantic Ocean toward South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

3:45 p.m. CT: At least 15 people reported dead

At least 15 people have been found dead in southwest and central Florida as a result of the storm, according to a report by CNN. President Joe Biden said Thursday morning this could end up being the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.

Cars drive on a flooded street caused by Hurricane Ian Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

3:30 p.m. CT: 2.6 million people without power in Florida

The Florida Division of Emergency Management said as of 3 p.m. CT Thursday there were over 2.6 million power outages in the state as a result of Hurricane Ian.

3:25 p.m. CT: Hundreds being rescued in Florida

More than 500 people have been rescued in Charlotte and Lee Counties in Florida since rescue operations began early Thursday morning, according to a report by NewsNation reporter Brian Entin.

3:10 p.m. CT: Charleston County, S.C. declares state of emergency

Officials in Charleston County, S.C. have declared a state of emergency, warning severe flooding could impact the area as Hurricane Ian moves toward the state.

“There is the potential for major flooding tomorrow,” said Charleston County Emergency Management Director Joe Coates in a statement. “If you live on a barrier island or a low-lying area that historically floods, and you haven’t moved to higher ground, I recommend you relocate now.”

3:02 p.m. CT: U.S. Coast Guard says its saved 39 people

The United States Coast Guard said in a tweet it has saved 39 people thus far in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

2:35 p.m. CT: Ian could produce “life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds”

The National Hurricane Center said in a Thursday afternoon update that Tropical Storm Ian had maximum sustained winds near 70 mph, with higher gusts. It is expected to make landfall as a hurricane on Friday, the NHC said, with a “rapid weakening forecast” after that.

2:30 p.m. CT: Some who are stranded or trying to get information are turning to social media

According to the Associated Press, one Twitter user tagged accounts for Orange County rescue crews. People posted addresses and asked about flooding severity on the Fort Myers Police Department’s Facebook page. Others who live out of state but owned property asked to travel to check on their homes.

So far, the AP wrote, the Coast Guard made dozens of rescues overnight, and there are more than 800 Urban Search and Rescue team members working.

Jake Moses, 19, left, and Heather Jones, 18, of Fort Myers, explore a section of destroyed businesses at Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

2 p.m. CT: Verizon is offering unlimited talk/text/data to customers in affected areas

Those in 21 counties, including Lee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Charlotte andCollier, will receive unlimited calling, texting and data through Oct. 4.

Verizon Wireless has also deployed its Frontline Crisis Response Team across the Southeast to support public safety agencies responding to Hurricane Ian.

1:30 p.m. CT update: Skyway Bridge has been reopened

At 11:54 a.m. CT, The Florida Highway Patrol Tampa announced on Twitter that the Skyway Bridge was reopened to traffic in both directions.

“Motorists may cross the span, but are asked to use caution due to debris along the highway shoulders,” The Florida Highway Patrol said.

1 p.m. CT: Emergency crews race to rescue people trapped by storm

In helicopters and boats, emergency crews went to rescue those on Florida’s Gulf Coast stranded by floodwaters, downed power lines and piles of debris, Reuters reported.

12:00 p.m. CT: Biden received reports of “substantial loss of life”

In a press conference Thursday, President Joe Biden said preliminary reports show there has been a “substantial loss of life” following the hurricane.

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” Biden said. “The numbers are still unclear but we are hearing what may be reports of substantial loss of life.”

Biden announced he would visit Florida soon, saying he was committed to rebuilding the state.

In the conference, the president said he would approve Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ most recent request to cover 100% of the cost to clear debris and emergency services.

The federal government will also provide assistance to homeowners for home repairs and lost or destroyed property, Biden announced.

Along with support for Florida, the president said FEMA authorities were working nonstop to provide assistance to Puerto Rico, which was hit by Ian days prior. He added he intends to visit the U.S. Territory as well.

In his conference, Biden warned gas companies not to raise prices, threatening to investigate price gouging if his administration received complaints.

11:55 a.m. CT: Deaths reported, but total remains unclear

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office confirmed search and rescue missions have discovered deaths following Hurricane Ian, however, a spokesperson says it’s too early to tell how many.

“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.

In this aerial photo, damaged boats and debris are stacked along the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

11:07 a.m. CT Tampa International Airpot to reopen Friday

Tampa International Airport announced in a news release it will resume commercial operations at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30. It remained closed on Thursday.

“Airport maintenance and operations staff inspected the airfield and facilities this morning and determined TPA did not sustain any serious damage during the storm,” the airport said.

10:50 a.m. CT Some Florida counties lifting evacuation orders

Officials in Hillsborough and Manatee counties lifted their mandatory evacuation orders and are in the process of closing emergency evacuation shelters — but they are warning this is not a return to normal.

“This is not an all-clear,” said Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes. “There are still hazards out there. And you need to understand the danger.”

10:00 a.m. CT: Hurricane warning issued for coast of South Carolina with Ian

The NHC said in a public advisory that a hurricane warning has been issued for the entire coast of South Carolina with Hurricane Ian. The timing of the landfall will likely be in the morning between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. near Charleston, and it is expected to be Category 1.

Forecasters say people can expect several feet of ocean water could surge into low areas along the coast, and flooding could rival or even slightly exceed recent hurricanes.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg cautioned residents to “take this storm seriously.”

“Tomorrow, stay home and stay out of harm’s way,” Tecklenburg said.

9:10 a.m. CT: Orange County Fire Rescue help evacuate Orlando nursing home

OC Fire Rescue crews assisted in evacuating Orlando nursing homes as Hurricane Ian winds picked up speed.

In this photo provided by the Orange County Fire Rescue’s Public Information Office, firefighters in Orange County, Fla., help people stranded by Hurricane Ian early Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Hurricane Ian marched across central Florida on Thursday as a tropical storm after battering the state’s southwest coast, dropping heavy rains that caused flooding and led to inland rescues and evacuations. (Orange County Fire Rescue’s Public Information Office via AP)

9:06 a.m. CT: Emergency evacuations underway at Avante at Orlando

Rising flood waters have forced emergency evacuations at Avante at Orlando, a nursing home.

9:00 a.m. CT: Flash flood emergency continues for Volusia County

NWS Melbourne tweeted that a flash flood emergency continues for portions of Volusia County, including Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet, urging residents to move to higher ground.

9:00 a.m. CT: U.S. Coast Guard Air Station crews fly over Key West to search and rescue civilians

The United States Coast Guard Air Station Jayhawk aircrews fly over Key West in search of people who need help and to assess the damage of the storm.

7:52 a.m. CT: Gov. Ron DeSantis provides an update on Hurricane Ian progress and damage

DeSantis, provided an update on Hurricane Ian’s progress and the damage that the storm has caused along its path. He said that rescue teams are performing rescue missions for those who have been trapped by the storm and teams have been sent out to assess the storm’s damage. Rescue operations have been underway since 1 a.m. Thursday.

DeSantis said there are 1.5 million on the southwest coast without power, and Lee County and Charlotte County are off the grid.

The governor calls the catastrophic flooding a “500-year event.”

President Joe Biden has approved FEMA assistance for 9 counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

DeSantis urges all residents to take caution even though the storm has already passed through the southwest. He said it is best to listen to law enforcement before leaving their homes.

7:15 a.m. CT: Ian produces catastrophic flooding over east-central Florida

Ian continues through Florida, producing catastrophic flooding over east-central Florida, according to the NHC.

7:00 a.m. CT: At least one storm death confirmed in Florida

A 72-year-old man was found dead in water in a canal behind his home in Deltona near Daytona Beach, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Authorities said he appeared to be using a hose to drain his pool into the wide canal and fell down an incline.

6:30 a.m. CT: More than 2.5 million households in Florida were still without power

According to PowerOutage.us, 2.5 million households were still without power. The outages were widespread but concentrated heavily in the southwest portion of the state where the hurricane first hit.

6:00 a.m CT: President Joe Biden approves Florida Disaster Declaration

President Joe Biden declared that a major disaster in Florida. He has approved and ordered federal aid to supplement recovery efforts in areas affected by Hurricane Ian.

5:55 a.m. CT: Flash flood emergency issued for eastern Florida cities

NWS Melbourne tweeted that flash flood emergencies have been issued for Altamonte Springs, Heathrow, Sanford and Lake Mary as Tropical Storm Ian pummels through the area. Residents are being urged to seek higher ground immediately.

5:30 a.m. CT: Transformers blow up in Riverview, Florida

Just before 5:30 a.m. CT, several transformers blew up in Riverview in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. There were reports of transformers leaning in the area shortly before the explosions, NewsNation affiliate WFLA reported.

5:16 a.m. CT: Sanibel Causeway damaged

Hurricane Ian took out a major chunk of the Sanibel Causeway which connects Sanibel islands to Florida’s mainland.

5:02 a.m. CT: Tropical Storm Ian pounds east Florida with rain as the storm continues northeast

Just west of Melbourne and south of Orlando, Tropical Storm Ian continues to flood Florida as it moves toward the northeast. Winds are sustained at 65 mph, but flooding is expected to reach up to a foot of rainfall on Florida’s east coast.

There is potential that Tropical Storm Ian could regain strength over the Atlantic, which means it could hit Georgia and the Carolinas as a possibly strengthened hurricane.

4:00 a.m. CT: Hurricane Ian weakens to a tropical storm

At 4 a.m. CT, the NHC reported that Hurricane Ian has downgraded to a tropical storm, but is still expected to produce strong winds, heavy rains and storm surge across portions of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

3:00 a.m. CT: 2.5 million without power

Florida’s electric provider map reports that 2,502,268 people were without power.

3:00 a.m. CT: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received a total of 1,585 service calls since 12 p.m. CT Wednesday

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received 1,585 service calls, with 349 of them for weather-related things such as downed trees or power lines.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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