Hurricane Ian Leaves Dozens Dead, Millions Without Power

Kevin Fogarty/Reuters
Kevin Fogarty/Reuters

Days after Hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, the state is still reeling from the effects of the storm. The death toll has risen to more than 77 people in Florida alone, according to NBC News, and is expected to grow as more drowned victims are discovered. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper confirmed on Saturday that four storm-related deaths occurred in his state the prior day.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office, which encompasses Fort Myers, said at least 35 lives were lost in the county, according to ABC News.

“During this difficult time, we’re at about 35 deaths, unfortunately,” Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said Saturday. “It’s with a heavy heart that I say that number.”

“Last night I just sat there by myself thinking about the devastation, looking through pictures, and I’ll tell you it brought tears to my eyes. We are going to work harder and we are going to be stronger than ever,” he said.

At a press conference Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that first responders had made over 1,100 rescues, and that the Army Corps of Engineers had been called in to repair damage to water systems.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Saturday that his state had not seen any deaths due to the hurricane and was “open for business.”

The remnants of Hurricane Ian, now considered a post-tropical cyclone with winds of up to 35 mph, are causing widespread rain from Virginia to Connecticut as the storm heads north.

President Joe Biden said Saturday that an emergency exists in North Carolina and ordered federal assistance.

“The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population,” the White House said in a statement released early Saturday.

The storm has also caused power outages across multiple states, affecting millions of people in Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina.

More than 1.2 million Floridians are still without power while another 242,000 customers in North Carolina and 56,000 people in Virginia are also reporting power outages.

In Cuba, meanwhile, only a fraction of the country has had power restored since the hurricane hit on Tuesday, prompting widespread protests over the delays. On Friday night, a foreign monitoring group said that the country’s internet service had been shut down, not because of the storm but rather to withhold information about demonstrations from citizens, the Associated Press reported.

Florida’s response to the natural disaster has also come under scrutiny. The New York Times reported that officials waited a day longer than other coastal counties to announce evacuation orders in Lee County, causing some residents to feel like they were not given enough time to get out.

“I think we responded as quickly as we humanly could have,” Kevin Ruane, a Lee County commissioner, told the Times.

Other parts of the state are dealing with flooding, including in Sarasota County, where NBC News reported that the county sheriff's office has warned residents in the Hidden Valley neighborhood of a potential levee breach affecting about 70 homes.

Holly Smith, the mayor of Sanibel, Florida, told ABC News Live Prime that Ian has changed the city for good.

“Unless you’re on the ground, you really can’t take in the gravity of what we experienced. It’s a different Sanibel,” she said.

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