In Cuba, where Hurricane Ian first made landfall on Sept. 27, the storm caused the country’s electricity grid to collapse, leaving 11 million people without power. And on Friday morning, National Hurricane Center’s 8:00 am update indicated the storm was about 105 miles away from Charleston, S.C.—where a flash-flood warning has already been issued, amid wind gusts measured at 74 mph—as the Carolinas braced for Ian’s landfall later in the day. In between, even as the storm temporarily weakened from a Category 4 hurricane to Category 1, its devastating impact was felt Wednesday afternoon in Florida, where it left thousands stranded in the midst of catastrophe.
Homes were demolished and trees felled; portions of bridges such as the Sanibel Causeway, which connects part of mainland Florida to Sanibel Island, will need to be rebuilt. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis referred to the devastation as a “500-year flooding event” on Thursday morning. Officials cannot yet properly assess the amount of damage caused by Hurricane Ian, though Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his office was struggling to answer thousands of 911 calls received, per the AP.
ABC News reports 11 confirmed deaths thus far, with a Florida County Commissioner saying this is the worst storm damage he’s ever seen. Rescue operations began in some counties on Thursday morning, allowing for some more than 775 people to be saved. Hospitals have been affected by flooding and a lack of running water, complicating the care patients are able to receive.