Hurricane Ian is heading towards the Carolinas

With winds up to 85 mph as of 1 a.m. Friday, Ian was forecast to send a 5-foot storm surge into coastal Georgia and the Carolinas.

CHARLESTON, SC — A revived Hurricane Ian battered the coast of South Carolina and the historic city of Charleston on Friday. Forecasters predicted a storm surge and flooding after the mega-storm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and trapped people in their homes.

With the entire coast of South Carolina under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston Thursday, many likely following officials’ warnings to seek higher ground. Shop fronts have been sandbagged to ward off high water levels in an area prone to flooding.

Along the Battery area at the southern tip of the 350-year-old city’s peninsula, locals and tourists alike snapped selfies against the restless backdrop of whitecaps in Charleston Harbor while palm trees swayed in the gusty wind.

With winds up to 90 mph by 1 a.m. Friday, Ian was forecast to drive a 5-foot storm surge into coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. Rainfall of up to 20 centimeters threatened flooding from South Carolina to Virginia.

In Florida, rescue teams steered boats and waded through river streets Thursday to rescue thousands of Floridians trapped between flooded homes and destroyed buildings Hurricane Ian.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescue operations were conducted Thursday, mostly from the air, involving the US Coast Guard, National Guard and city search and rescue teams.

Jan made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the United States. It flooded homes on both shores of the state, cut off the only road access to a offshore island and destroyed a historic waterfront pier, and turned off power to 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers. About 2.1 million of these customers remained in the dark afterwards.

RELATED: ‘This is a catastrophic storm’: How to help people impacted by Hurricane Ian

Climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian a study prepared immediately after the storm, said his co-author, climate scientist Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

At least four people were confirmed dead in Florida, while three others were killed in Cuba after the hurricane struck there on Tuesday.

In which Fort Myers area, the hurricane ripped houses from their slabs and dumped them among shredded rubble. Shops near the beach were completely destroyed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks drifted at odd angles alongside damaged boats. Fires smolder where houses once stood.

RELATED: Study shows climate change contributed 10% to Ian’s precipitation

“I don’t know how anyone survived in there,” William Goodison said amidst the wreckage of a trailer park in Fort Myers Beach, where he had lived for 11 years. Goodison said he was only alive because he survived the storm at his son’s home inland.

The hurricane swept through the park of about 60 homes, leaving many destroyed or irreparably mutilated, including Goodison’s one-story home. Wading through waist-deep water, Goodison and his son wheeled two trash cans with what little he could salvage — a portable air conditioner, some tools, and a baseball bat.

RELATED: Flooding catches many in Florida as Ian travels to South Carolina

The road to Fort Myers was littered with fallen trees, boat trailers, and other debris. Cars were left on the road after stalling as the storm surge swamped their engines.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his office has struggled to respond to thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges are impassable.

Rescuers sawed through fallen trees to reach stranded people. Many in the hardest-hit areas were unable to call for help because of power and cellphone outages.

A section of the Sanibel Causeway collapsed into the sea, cutting off access to the offshore island, which is home to 6,300 people.

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida Peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday night over the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center forecast it would hit South Carolina on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.

RELATED: Latest Forecast: Ian Ready to Land in South Carolina

National Guard troops were stationed in South Carolina to help with the aftermath, including water rescues. And in Washington, President Joe Biden authorized an emergency declaration for the state, a necessary step to expedite federal support for recovery once Ian is over.

The storm was on track to later hit North Carolina, forecasters said. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for downpours, strong winds and possible power outages.

Cooper visited the state’s emergency response center Thursday and said up to 7 inches of rain could fall in some areas, with the potential for landslides and tornadoes across the state.

Gomez Licon reported from Punta Gorda, Florida; Associated press staff include Terry Spencer and Tim Reynolds in Fort Myers, Florida; Cody Jackson in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein in Washington; and Bobby Caina Calvan in New York. Hurricane Ian is heading towards the Carolinas

Laura Coffey

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