Fort Myers, Fla. (AP) — With the death toll from Hurricane Ian rising and hundreds of thousands without power in Florida and the Carolinas, U.S. officials vowed Sunday to receive massive amounts of federal disaster aid as crews scrambled to save lives. scuffled for Caught by the storm.
Days after Ian tore through central Florida, the Carolinas created a deadly path of destruction, with water levels rising in some flooded areas, flooding homes and roads that were only walkable for a day or two. Were.
With branches spread across the grounds of St. Hillary’s Episcopal Church in Ft. Myers, the Rev. Charles Cannon, recognized the heavy loss during his Sunday sermon, but also gave thanks for what was left. Including the stained glass windows of the church and the staircase.
“People think they’ve lost everything, but if you haven’t lost yourself you haven’t lost everything,” he said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Arcadia on Sunday afternoon, about 30 miles inland from where Ian made landfall. The rural area did not experience a storm surge by coastal communities, but standing water from flooding remained for four days after the storm.
“It’s such a huge storm, brought so much water, that you’re basically experiencing a 500-year flood event,” DeSantis said.
At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
About 750,000 homes and businesses in Florida had no electricity on Sunday, down from a peak of 2.6 million.
Weather officials said the weakening storm continued to wreak havoc as it drifted north, forming a nor’easter with remnants that is expected to bring rain to parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania .
In Virginia, rain over the already submerged Chesapeake Bay could cause the most significant tidal flood event in the Hampton Roads area in the past 10 to 15 years, said National Weather Service meteorologist Cody Poche. A handful of coastal Virginia school districts canceled classes on Monday and local officials urged residents to prepare.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Dean Criswell said the federal government is focusing on the first victims in florida, which bore the brunt of one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the United States. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are planning to visit Florida on Wednesday.
Flooded roadways and washed-out bridges left many people isolated, amid limited cellphone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and internet. Officials warned that the situation is not expected to improve for several days in many areas as the rain that has fallen has nowhere to go.
Criswell told “Fox News Sunday” that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense, had gone into a situation of “the greatest amount of search and rescue assets I think we’ve ever held before”.
Still, he cautioned that the dangers remain.
“After the storm we see many more injuries and sometimes more deaths,” Criswell said. “Standing water brings with it all kinds of hazards—there’s debris in it, there could be power lines in it.”
According to Florida’s Emergency Management Agency, more than 1,600 people have been rescued across the state.
In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned waders, boots and bug spray Paddle in their flooded homes sunday.
Ben Burratt found 4 inches (10 cm) of water in his home on the shores of Lake Harney after kayaking there.
“I think it’s going to get worse because all this water has to go up to the lake,” said Bertat, pointing to the water on a nearby road. “With the ground saturation, all this swamp is filled and it cannot take any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s going down any further.”
Gabriel Madeling went kayaking through several feet of water on his road, delivering sandbags to stop the water that had reached his door.
“My house is under water,” said Madeling. “Right now, I’m going to be in the sand bag as much as I can and hope and pray.”
The National Guard and Coast Guard were on their way to Florida’s barrier islands by helicopter to rescue people. On Sanibel Island, the crescent-shaped island’s lone bridge collapsed, cutting off car access for its 6,300 residents.
An aerial photo of the Mad Hatter restaurant on Sanibel posted on social media shows an empty piece of sand where the restaurant used to be.
“The Mad Hatter restaurant, unfortunately, is at sea right now,” the restaurant’s Facebook page reads, adding that the staff are all safe. “The best news from this devastating scene is that there is still ground for us to rebuild.”
DeSantis said the state will begin construction of a temporary structure this week to restore vehicular access to Pine Island, the largest of southwestern Florida’s barrier islands devastated by the storm.
“It’s not going to be a full bridge, you’ll probably have to go at 5 mph or something, but it will at least let people in and out of the island with their vehicles,” DeSantis said. ,
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson on Sunday defended Lee County officials from allegations that they were slow to order evacuations before the storm on Tuesday, a day later than some of the other counties in the area.
“Hurricane season warnings begin in June. So there is some degree of personal responsibility here. I think the county did the right thing. The thing is, a small percentage of people won’t heed the warnings,” Anderson said on the CBS show “Face the Nation.”
In North Carolina, the storm downed trees and power lines. Two of the four deaths in the state were from vehicle accidents related to the storm, and the others involved a man who drowned when his truck fell into a swamp and was struck by carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.
Associated Press journalist Rebecca Santana in Ft. myers; Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguire in Tallahassee; David Fisher in Miami; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, VA; and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.
For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: https://apnews.com/hub/hurricanes