Dozens dead from Ian, one of strongest storms to hit US

At least 30 people have been confirmed dead, including 27 people in Florida, mostly from drowning, others from the tragic aftermath of the storm.

CHARLESTON, SC — Rescue workers searched the ruins of Florida homes flooded by Hurricane Ian for survivors while authorities in South Carolina waited for daylight to assess damage from the storm’s second blow as the aftermath of one of the strongest and costliest disasters that ever hit the US pushed further north.

The powerful storm terrorized millions for most of the week and ravaged western Cuba before sweeping 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. It has since weakened into a still dangerous post-tropical cyclone, crossing North Carolina into Virginia overnight and pushing heavy rains toward the mid-Atlantic states.

At least 30 people have been confirmed dead, including 27 people in Florida, mostly from drowning, others from the tragic aftermath of the storm. An elderly couple died after their oxygen equipment turned off due to a power outage, authorities said. Meanwhile, on Friday, distraught residents waded through knee-deep water, salvaging as many belongings as they could from their flooded homes and loading them onto rafts and canoes.

RELATED: Ian lashes out at South Carolina as Florida death toll rises

“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 while the mud in her kitchen clung to her purple sandals.

In South Carolina, Ian’s center landed near Georgetown, a small community on 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 on Friday than they were during Ian’s landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier in the week. There, authorities and volunteers still surveyed the damage while shocked residents tried to make sense of what they had just gone through.

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

“It’s the scariest thing in the world because I can’t stop a boat,” he said. “I’m not Superman.”

Even though Ian left Florida long ago, new problems kept popping up. A 14-mile (22-kilometer) stretch of major Interstate 75 was closed in both directions in the Port Charlotte area late Friday because the Myakka River was swollen by excessive water levels.

The official death toll rose throughout the day on Friday, with authorities warning it was likely to rise much higher once crews had a more comprehensive assessment of the damage. Friday’s searches targeted emergency rescues and initial assessments, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. As an example, he described a submerged house.

“The water was above the roof, yes, but we had a Coast Guard lifeguard swim in and he could tell it was human remains. We don’t know exactly how many,” Guthrie said.

The dead included a 68-year-old woman who was swept into the sea by a wave and a 67-year-old man who fell into rising water at his home while awaiting rescue.

Authorities also said a 22-year-old woman died after an ATV rolled over from a road flood and a 71-year-old man suffered a fatal fall from a roof while setting up rain shutters. Another three people died in Cuba earlier this week.

Hurricane Ian likely caused “well over $100 billion” in damage, including $63 billion in privately insured damage, according to catastrophe modeling firm Karen Clark & ​​Company, which regularly issues lightning disaster estimates. If confirmed, Ian would be at least the fourth costliest hurricane in US history.

RELATED: Fishing boat blown 8 miles down coast thanks to Hurricane Ian

In North Point, a suburb of Sarasota, Fla., residents of the Country Club Ridge subdivision waded through flooded streets Friday. John Chihil solemnly towed a canoe and another small boat through ankle-deep water.

“There really isn’t much to feel. It’s an act of God, you know?” he said. “I mean that’s all you can do is pray and hope for a better day tomorrow.”

Gomez Licon reported from Punta Gorda, Florida; Associated press staff include Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Fla.; Terry Spencer, Tim Reynolds and in Fort Myers, Fla.; Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Daniel Kozin of North Port, Florida; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Bobby Caina Calvan in New York and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina. Dozens dead from Ian, one of strongest storms to hit US

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