Hurricane looms off Carolinas after causing 21 deaths in Florida

Published October 1, 2022
CHILDREN play with the waves at the beach in Havana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Authorities were slowly restoring electricity in Cuba following a power outage in the country caused by the hurricane.—AFP
CHILDREN play with the waves at the beach in Havana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. Authorities were slowly restoring electricity in Cuba following a power outage in the country caused by the hurricane.—AFP

FORT MYERS: A resurgent Hurricane Ian barreled toward the US state of South Carolina on Friday, a day after carving a path of destruction across the Florida peninsula, killing 21 people, washing away houses, causing a causeway to collapse and stranding thousands along the state’s Gulf coast.

Ian, which had weakened to a tropical storm during its march across Florida, was upgraded to a category 1 hurricane on Thursday as it churned toward South Carolina with maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 kph.

The hurricane was forecast to hit north of low-lying Charleston early on Saturday morning, bringing potentially life-threatening flooding, storm surges and winds. Hundreds of miles of coastline, stretching from Georgia to North Carolina, were under a hurricane warning.

Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina urged residents to prepare for dangerous conditions.

By mid-morning on Friday in Charleston, South Carolina, everyone was ordered off the roads and the Charleston International Airport was closed because of high winds.

Kelsey Barlow, a spokeswoman for Charleston county, home to more than 400,000 residents, said the county had two shelters open and a third on standby.

“But it’s too late for people to come to the shelters. The storm is here. Everyone needs to shelter in place, stay off the roads,” Barlow said.

A storm surge of more than seven feet was expected, on top of the noon high tide that could bring another six feet of water, causing massive flooding.

With the eye of the storm still hours away, torrential rain had already arrived in Charleston. Video clips on social media showed several inches of water in some streets in the historic port city, which is especially prone to flooding.

Charleston is particularly at risk. A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90% of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding. Parts of northeast South Carolina, near Charleston, could also experience up to eight inches of rain.

Even so, the expected storm surges were not as severe as those issued by the NHC when the storm was approaching Florida. Edisto Beach, South Carolina, a resort destination about 30 miles south of Charleston, was expected to see a four- to seven-foot surge. That compares to 12-foot surges reported earlier in the week for parts of the Gulf Coast.

‘BIG WALLOP’ Two days after Ian first came ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland, the extent of the damage there was becoming more apparent.

“Clearly it has packed a big wallop,” Governor Ron DeSantis said at the briefing.

“The response was very, very quick,” he said. “I do think that response made a difference.” Some 10,000 people were unaccounted for, Guthrie said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power, making it impossible to check in with loved ones or local officials. He said he expected the number to “organically” shrink in the coming days.

Fort Myers, a city close to where the eye of the storm first came ashore, absorbed a major blow, with numerous houses destroyed by 150 mph winds and a powerful storm surge. Offshore, Sanibel Island, a popular destination for vacationers and retirees, was cut off when a causeway was rendered impassable.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022

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