Hurricane Ian strengthens, aim at South Carolina after Florida

Hurricane Ian came ashore near Georgetown, South Carolina, Friday afternoon, knocking out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.

Ian reached land at 2:05 p.m. as a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone about three hours after making the second landfall, but officials in both South Carolina and Florida warned that Ian and its aftermath pose grave danger.

The hurricane pounded parts of Florida on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, devastating communities and leaving at least 21 people dead, with seven in Charlotte County.

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie suggested the death toll could be higher. He said it was still to be confirmed whether many of those were related to the storm, however.

Speaking after a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, President Joe Biden had also warned Thursday night that Ian could be responsible for “substantial loss of life” and end up being the deadliest storm in Florida’s history.

“I spoke with the commissioners, and they are worried,” he said.

Image: BESTPIX - Hurricane Ian Slams Into West Coast Of Florida
Boats sit scattered in a woodland area and along the side of the road after being propelled by rising waters from Hurricane Ian near Fort Myers Beach on Thursday.Win McNamee / Getty Images

More than 2.2 million customers across Florida were without power as of early Friday, with more than 400,000 customers in Lee County alone left in the dark.

Striking videos and photos emerging from Florida have captured the level of devastation across the state, with some footage showing heroic rescues of people stranded in submerged cars and wading into floodwaters, while others portray the destruction left in Ian’s wake.

The hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday, but strengthened again into a hurricane, according to the hurricane center.

In addition to the warning of a life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions, flooding rains are also likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia.

The center of the storm is expected to move further inland across the Carolinas on Friday night and Saturday, the hurricane center said.

A crowd watches as power lines are repaired after several days without electricity in El Cerro, Cuba.
A crowd watches as power lines are repaired Thursday after several days without electricity in El Cerro, Cuba. alberto Roque / AFP – Getty Images

In Cuba, residents continue to grapple with the aftermath of Ian, that knocked out power across the country in sweeping outages.

At least three hurricane-related deaths were reported in the island nation as of earlier this week. One woman died after a wall fell on her, while another was killed by a roof that collapsed. Meanwhile, cleanup efforts are underway in hard-hit parts of the country.

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