As Ian fades, its effects are felt from Florida through the Southeast: Live updates

Published October 1, 2022 at 11:02 AM EDT
Tony Rivera carries items recovered from his family's waterlogged car through receding flood waters in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday.
Rebecca Blackwell
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AP
Tony Rivera carries items recovered from his family's waterlogged car through receding flood waters in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday.

After landing in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, Ian quickly weakened to a post-tropical storm, leaving a path of damaging heavy rain and wind from the Carolinas into Virginia.

Here's what we're following:

Local reports from the NPR Network's member stations:

NPR interview

Florida's recovery from Hurricane Ian is going to be complex, a FEMA official says

Posted October 1, 2022 at 4:00 PM EDT
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, pictured at a news briefing earlier this week, tells NPR Florida's recovery from Hurricane Ian will take time.
Chip Somodevilla
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Getty Images
FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, pictured at a news briefing earlier this week, tells NPR Florida's recovery from Hurricane Ian will take time.

As Florida begins its recovery process from Hurricane Ian, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell said the government agency is looking at both immediate and long-term needs.

Criswell said the immediate priorities include helping search and rescue missions and working to restore water and power services in Lee County, where it made landfall in the state. She also said FEMA is looking to assist in the coming weeks.

"We're already beginning our planning processes for what the recovery is going to look like," Criswell told NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. "So while we're still saving lives and stabilizing this incident, we know that we're going to have a long and complex recovery. So we're putting the measures in place right now to make sure we've got the right people on the ground to do that in the days to come.”

Criswell said the state of Florida already has a plan in place to help residents as the flood waters recede and that FEMA has assigned a federal disaster recovery coordinator to help.

"I plan to come back in a few weeks to check in on those planning efforts to make sure we're bringing in the right resources to support the recovery needs that these communities are going to have," she said.

Damage costs

Ian could turn out to be the greatest hurricane loss in Florida history

Posted October 1, 2022 at 3:13 PM EDT
A resident wades through the water in a flooded neighborhood following Hurricane Ian on October 1 in Orlando, Florida.
Bryan R. Smith
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AFP via Getty Images
A resident wades through the water in a flooded neighborhood in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday.

A disaster modeling firm predicts that the combination of uninsured properties, infrastructure damage and other cleanup and recovery plans could cost “well over $100 billion.”

Karen Clark & Co. said it expects Ian to be “the largest hurricane loss in Florida history.” The projected price tag would also make Ian the fourth-costliest storm on record in U.S. history.

Only three other hurricanes — Katrina, Harvey and Maria — have caused over $100 billion in damages, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, is considered the costliest disaster of all time — the economic devastation having totaled over $186 billion in today’s dollars.

New dangers

There are fears that a Florida levee break may cause even more flooding

Posted October 1, 2022 at 2:49 PM EDT

In Southwest and central Florida, rivers swollen by rain from Hurricane Ian are cresting and flooding communities. It has caused a possible levee break in Sarasota County.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office sent out an alert early Saturday warning that a possible breach of a levee could send 15 feet of water into a nearby neighborhood.

Flooding by the Myakka River forced the closing of a section of Interstate 75. In North Port and Venice, rescue crews are using boats and high water vehicles to help people from flooded homes.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ross Giarratana says days after Ian left Florida, it's still wreaking havoc.

"All that rain that we did have is continuing to drain through our river system," Giarratana said. "So we've seen historic rises on many rivers across a good portion of west, central and southwest Florida.

The Myakka will crest on Saturday but is expected to remain at flood stage through the middle of next week.

Florida governor

Florida governor warns against looting in hard-hit areas

Posted October 1, 2022 at 1:06 PM EDT
A members of the fire rescue team knocks on a door in search for survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida on September 30.
Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
A member of a rescue team knocks on a door in a search for survivors in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is warning against looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

In a press conference, DeSantis said: “We want to make sure we’re maintaining law and order. Don't think about looting, don't even think about taking advantage of people in this vulnerable situation.”

DeSantis and several officials were in Lee County to assess the damage. The coastal community was among the hardest hit by Hurricane Ian and remains largely without electricity.

The governor said state authorities may also be involved in monitoring the hardest-hit areas. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody added she would want people caught looting to stay in jail and not be released on bond, member station WUSF reported.

Local police officials said that search-and-rescue crews continue to go door-to-door in Lee County.

After the storm

Floridians are starting to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Ian

Posted October 1, 2022 at 10:51 AM EDT
A Rolls Royce swept into the mangroves in Bonita Springs, south of Cape Coral, on Friday.
Scott Neuman
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NPR
A Rolls Royce swept into the mangroves in Bonita Springs, south of Cape Coral, on Friday.

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Jim Bianco decided to stay put in his seaside home in Bonita Springs rather than evacuate as Hurricane Ian smashed ashore on Wednesday.

The white-haired 86-year-old has lived in the posh community in Lee County for 30 years. During that time, he's also ridden out, in similar fashion, the 1993 "Storm of the Century" and Hurricane Charley, which made landfall in 2004 at almost the same spot as Ian arrived earlier this week.

Never again, Bianco says. Those storms were "nothing like this," and it was "a big mistake" not to heed authorities who warned people to evacuate, he now admits.

At least 17 people are confirmed dead from the storm and more than 1.5 million people are still without electricity. Despite that, many newer structures — those built after 2002, when the state adopted building codes aimed at fortifying structures against hurricanes — remain intact, with little evidence of damage.

Bianco and his wife were sure their "Category-5 windows" — made to withstand the strongest winds — would give way. Luckily, they didn't. But, "the water came through [and] took everything underneath the house."

Read more here.

Nursing homes

Florida nursing homes evacuated thousands before Ian hit

Posted October 1, 2022 at 10:45 AM EDT
Authorities transport a person out of the Avante nursing home in Orlando, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday.
John Raoux
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AP
Authorities transport a person out of the Avante nursing home in Orlando, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday.

Stay, or go?

That was the question facing the hundreds of Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Hurricane Ian's path this week. Moving elderly residents can cause "transfer trauma," with the stress of relocation sometimes leading to deterioration. But staying put during a powerful hurricane comes with obvious risks to health and safety.

With Ian still wreaking havoc on the Southeast, and now blamed for 21 deaths in Florida, NPR reached out to two dozen Florida nursing homes in Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties, where the storm struck first. Most could not be reached or declined to comment, but some shared updates.

"In 42 years, we've never evacuated," says an employee at Calusa Harbour in Fort Myers, Fla. The employee asked NPR not to use their name because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

But for Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida on the cusp of Category 5 winds, that changed. Calusa Harbour moved their assisted living residents to an affiliated facility an hour to the south.

More than 40 nursing homes made the same choice and evacuated around 3,400 residents before the storm set in, according to the Florida Health Care Association, a trade organization. Most are located in the southwestern part of the state, and transferred residents to affiliated facilities outside the storm's path. At least another 115 assisted living facilities also evacuated residents.

Read more here.

Schools

More than 2.5 million Florida students have missed school because of Hurricane Ian

Posted October 1, 2022 at 10:38 AM EDT

Millions of K-12 students missed school this week in Florida, as nearly every public school district in the state closed its buildings during the onslaught of Hurricane Ian.

At least 55 of Florida's 67 public school districts closed for at least one day, according to the state's department of education, district websites and social media. The districts that remained open were largely in the state's panhandle.

That amounts to more than 2.5 million students out of school, based on the most recently available federal data on public school enrollment. Around 1.7 million of those students missed three days or more, and several districts have yet to announce their reopening plans.

Read more here.

Power outages

Tens of thousands in the Carolinas and Virginia are without electricity as Ian's remnants sweep through

Posted October 1, 2022 at 10:12 AM EDT
Power lines are leaning precariously after hurricane Ian passed through on September 30 in Fort Myers, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
Power lines lean precariously on Friday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Three days since Hurricane Ian struck Florida, over 1.2 million customers remain without electricity as of Saturday morning, according to utility companies’ reports tracked by PowerOutage.US. That's less than half the 2.6 million who had lost power in the state as of Thursday.

The issue is largely concentrated along Florida’s southwestern coast near Tampa. Over 42,000 technicians have been deployed across the state to restore power. Some believe that parts of Florida’s power grid will need to be rebuilt entirely due to extreme flooding.

In South Carolina, where a weaker Ian made landfall on Friday, more than 56,000 customers were without power as of Saturday morning. About 300,000 customers in North Carolina and over 80,000 customers in Virginia have lost electricity.

The post-tropical cyclone is expected to travel across central North Carolina and reach south-central Virginia by Saturday afternoon.