FL: People Trapped, 2.5M Without Power 09/29 06:02
Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping
people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit
and knocking out power to 2.5 million people as it dumped rain across the
peninsula on Thursday.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in
southwest Florida, trapping people in flooded homes, damaging the roof of a
hospital intensive care unit and knocking out power to 2.5 million people as it
dumped rain across the peninsula on Thursday.
One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States threatened
catastrophic flooding around the state. Ian's tropical-storm-force winds
extended outward up to 415 miles (665 km), and nearly all of Florida was
The National Hurricane Center said Ian became a tropical storm over land
early Thursday and was expected to regain near-hurricane strength after
emerging over Atlantic waters near the Kennedy Space Center later in the day,
with South Carolina in its sights for a second U.S. landfall.
A stretch of the Gulf Coast remained inundated by ocean water, pushed ashore
by the massive storm. "Severe and life-threatening storm surge inundation of 8
to 10 feet above ground level along with destructive waves is ongoing along the
southwest Florida coastline from Englewood to Bonita Beach, including Charlotte
Harbor," the Miami-based hurricane center said.
In Port Charlotte, the storm surge flooded a hospital's emergency room even
as fierce winds ripped away part of the roof from its intensive care unit,
according to a doctor who works there.
Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing them to evacuate their sickest
patients -- some on ventilators -- to other floors, said Dr. Birgit Bodine of
HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Staff members used towels and plastic bins to try
to mop up the sodden mess.
The medium-sized hospital spans four floors, but patients crowded into two
because of the damage, and more were expected with people injured from the
storm needing help.
"As long as our patients do OK and nobody ends up dying or having a bad
outcome, that's what matters," Bodine said.
Law enforcement officials in nearby Fort Myers received calls from people
trapped in flooded homes or from worried relatives. Pleas were also posted on
social media sites, some with video showing debris-covered water sloshing
toward the eaves of their homes.
Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her
mother in North Fort Myers, whose home was swamped by 5 feet (1.5 meters) of
"We don't know when the water's going to go down. We don't know how they're
going to leave, their cars are totaled," Hailer said. "Her only way out is on a
Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and blew down trees as it slammed
into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph (241 kph) winds, pushing a
wall of storm surge. Ian's strength at landfall was Category 4, tying it for
the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind speed, ever to strike the
Ian dropped to a tropical storm early Thursday over land, but was expected
to intensify again once its center moves over the Atlantic Ocean and menace the
South Carolina coast Friday at near-hurricane strength before moving inland.
At 5 a.m. Thursday, the storm was about 40 miles (70 km) southeast of
Orlando and 35 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of Cape Canaveral, carrying
maximum sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph) and moving toward the cape at 8 mph
(13 kmh), the center said.
Hurricane warnings were lowered to tropical storm warnings across the
Florida peninsula, with widespread, catastrophic flooding remaining likely, the
hurricane center said. Storm surges as high as 6 feet (2 meters) were still
forecast for both coasts.
"It doesn't matter what the intensity of the storm is. We're still expecting
quite a bit of rainfall," Robbie Berg, senior hurricane specialist with the
National Hurricane Center, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain forecast for parts of Northeast
Florida, coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. As much as 6
inches (15 centimeters) could fall in southern Virginia as the storm moves
inland over the Carolinas, and the center said landslides were possible in the
southern Appalachian mountains.
No deaths were reported in the United States from Ian by late Wednesday. But
a boat carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy weather east of Key
The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 people and
managed to find three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the
Florida Keys, officials said. Four other Cubans swam to Stock Island, just east
of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. Air crews continued to search for
possibly 20 remaining migrants.
The storm previously tore into Cuba, killing two people and bringing down
the country's electrical grid.
The hurricane's eye made landfall near Cayo Costa, a barrier island just
west of heavily populated Fort Myers. As it approached, water drained from
More than 2.5 million Florida homes and businesses were left without
electricity, according to the PowerOutage.us site. Most of the homes and
businesses in 12 counties were without power.
Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, just north of Fort Myers,
announced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. "for life-saving purposes," saying
violators may face second-degree misdemeanor charges.
"I am enacting this curfew as a means of protecting the people and property
of Charlotte County," Prummell said.
Life-threatening storm surges and hurricane conditions were possible on
Thursday and Friday along the coasts of northeast Florida, Georgia, and South
Carolina, where Ian was expected to move inland, dumping more rain well in from
the coast, the hurricane center said.
The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all
preemptively declared states of emergency.