After devastating Florida, Ian becomes a hurricane again and heads for South Carolina: Live updates

Published September 29, 2022 at 7:58 AM EDT
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Orlando, Fla.
Phelan M. Ebenhack
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AP
A first responder with Orange County Fire Rescue makes her way through floodwaters looking for residents of a neighborhood needing help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

A day after creating historic flooding in Florida and leaving much of the state without power, Ian is out over the Atlantic and heading toward South Carolina, where it is expected to make its second U.S. landfall on Friday.

Here's what we're following:

Local updates: The latest from Miami; The latest from Tampa Bay

Stay informed while conserving your phone battery and data usage, visit NPR's text-only site.

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Eyewitness

Fort Myers will never be the same again, a survivor says

Posted September 29, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT

As a born and raised resident of Fort Myers, Fla., Bobby Pratt has been dealing with hurricanes since he was two months old. But the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian was beyond what he could have imagined.

"Carnage is what I can describe it as. I was just in shock," he said on Thursday in the aftermath. "I could just see that it was going to be bad, worse than I could have ever thought it was."

Pratt is a student at the University of Central Florida and had come home to ride out the storm with his parents after his classes were cancelled. While his family home suffered some damage, they were able to stay safe and sheltered.

When he went down to the beachside, he said, buildings had been reduced to rubble.

"Those places have been there a long time on the beach. My dad went to those when he was young, his dad went to the places when he was younger. Those places have been there a long time," Pratt said. "They really made Fort Myers what it was. And now that they're gone, I don't think it'll ever be the same."

Restoring power

Florida’s biggest power company warns that parts of the grid will need to be rebuilt

Posted September 29, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
A worker repairs energy lines in Bartow, Fla., on Thursday during a power outage after Hurricane Ian passed through the area.
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America
A worker repairs energy lines in Bartow, Fla., on Thursday during a power outage after Hurricane Ian passed through the area.

Parts of Florida’s power grid will need to be rebuilt after Hurricane Ian flooded some areas with storm surges of up to 12 feet, according to Florida Power & Light, the state’s biggest power utility.

“Pure wind damage, you know, is really more just restoration,” John Ketchum, the chief executive of FP&L’s parent company, NextEra Energy, said at an investor conference on Thursday.

But flood damage “is different,” he said. “That can actually result in a rebuild in some areas.”

More than 2.6 million electricity customers in Florida were without power on Thursday. Two coastal counties that were hit the hardest — Lee County and Charlotte County — are “basically off the grid at this point,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference.

On Sanibel Island off Florida’s southwest coast, structures and roads were washed away by a storm surge that DeSantis described as “biblical.”

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” President Biden told reporters after a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C. Biden said there were early reports of “substantial loss of life.”

Ketchum, NextEra’s CEO, said overhead power lines that deliver electricity to people’s homes — known as distribution lines — are the most vulnerable parts of the system.

He expects the damage caused by Hurricane Ian will create more urgency to bury those lines underground.

With climate change making powerful, wetter hurricanes more likely, the National Science Foundation said earlier this month that strategically burying sections of power lines could significantly reduce the number of residents who experience blackouts.

“[That] is where you have your risk, right, is what I call that last mile, which is the distribution system going from transmission [line] to the home,” Ketchum said.

A hurricane again

Ian re-strengthens into a hurricane as it heads toward South Carolina

Posted September 29, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
Hurricane Ian is now a Category 1 hurricane, again, as it moves toward the South Carolina coast. The storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall along with strong winds, flooding and potential tornadoes in other parts of the state.
National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Ian is now a Category 1 hurricane again, as it moves toward the South Carolina coast. The storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall along with strong winds, flooding and potential tornadoes in other parts of the state.

Ian has strengthened into a hurricane once again.

In its 5 p.m. ET advisory Thursday, the National Hurricane Center says Ian regained hurricane status with sustained winds of 75 mph.

Ian is expected to make landfall in South Carolina on Friday afternoon.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a hurricane warning for portions of his state’s coast.

“If you haven’t yet made plans for every contingency, this afternoon is the time to do so,” McMaster said in a news release. “With the potential for hurricane force winds along our coast, it’s important for South Carolinians to plan now."

Kim Stenson, South Carolina Emergency Management director, said in a statement that while the state will not see the full force of Ian as Florida did, heavy rain, wind and flash flooding are a possibility with the storm's arrival.

“Over the next day, it will be vital for everyone to be prepared to act if told to do so by your local public safety officials," Stenson said.

State officials are urging residents in low-lying areas prone to flooding, particularly along the coast, to have a plan to evacuate to higher ground if their homes become unsafe.

Evacuations

More than 3,000 nursing home residents have been evacuated in Florida

Posted September 29, 2022 at 4:39 PM EDT
This image provided by Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office rescue crews work quickly to safely evacuate Avante at Orlando nursing home residents on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Orlando, Fla. Officials say rain and overflow from rivers is causing severe flooding near parts of Florida’s Atlantic coast as storm Ian makes its way back out to sea.
AP
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Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office
Rescue crews work evacuate Avante at Orlando nursing home residents on Thursday in Orlando, Fla. Officials say rain and overflow from rivers caused severe flooding near parts of Florida’s Atlantic coast as Tropical Storm Ian made its way back out to sea.

More than 40 nursing homes across Florida have been evacuated due to Hurricane Ian, according to the Florida Health Care Association.

As of this morning, about 3,400 nursing home residents were evacuated across 44 facilities on the state’s west coast.

“Our hearts are with our heroic caregivers who have been working around the clock to keep their residents safe which is always the top priority,” association spokesperson Kristen Knapp told NPR.

In southwest Florida, roughly 15 to 20 facilities are without power, but do have generators that are operating, Knapp said.

Tax relief

The IRS gives Floridians more time to pay their federal taxes

Posted September 29, 2022 at 4:20 PM EDT

Hurricane Ian victims throughout Florida now have until Feb. 15, 2023, to file various federal individual and business tax returns and make tax payments, the IRS said Thursday.

The agency says it is offering tax relief to households and individuals that either reside or have a business anywhere in Florida designated by FEMA.

The Feb. 15 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on Jan. 17, 2023, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due on Oct. 31, 2022, and Jan. 31, 2023, according to the IRS.

The IRS noted that because tax payments related to 2021 returns were due on April 18, 2022, these payments are not eligible for relief.

Here’s a list of the localities eligible for tax relief.

Looking ahead

North Carolina's governor urges residents to stay aware and prepare ahead of Ian

Posted September 29, 2022 at 4:15 PM EDT

Gov. Roy Cooper is encouraging all North Carolinians to take necessary precautions as the remnants of Hurricane Ian begin to approach the state.

Ian is expected to begin affecting North Carolina as soon as Thursday evening. Residents in North Carolina can experience potential impacts such as significant rainfall statewide, gusty winds, flash flooding and storm surge in coastal counties, according to state officials.

"Hurricane Ian reminds us how unpredictable these storms can be and North Carolinians should be prepared when it reaches our state,” Cooper said in a news release. “This storm is still dangerous.”

Ahead of Ian's arrival, Cooper declared a state of emergency in which he activated the state’s emergency operations plan, waived transportation rules governing fuel and critical supplies as well as protecting people from price gouging.

Additionally, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a hurricane warning for portions his state’s coast.

“If you haven’t yet made plans for every contingency, this afternoon is the time to do so,” McMaster said. “With the potential for hurricane force winds along our coast, it’s important for South Carolinians to plan now."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp advised residents to take the necessary precautions ahead of Ian's arrival, issuing a state of emergency for all 159 counties in his state.

Reopenings

Disney World says it plans to resume normal operations on Friday

Posted September 29, 2022 at 3:33 PM EDT

Walt Disney World says it plans to reopen its theme park and resorts in a phased approach starting Friday as weather conditions improve.

“While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests today, we anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening,” the company said in its statement.

The company says it will continue to closely monitor weather conditions and will assess the impact of Hurricane Ian across its property.

“We thank our first responders and community leaders for their courageous efforts in preparing for and managing the storm’s impact,” the company adds.

Infrastructure impacts

Lee County government leaders say the county water system has failed

Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:47 PM EDT
This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee
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AP
Damaged homes and debris are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Roger Desjarlais, county manager of Lee County, Fla., says the county’s water systems have failed following Hurricane Ian.

Desjarlais told reporters Thursday that officials are searching for the source of the failures and hope it will be resolved in the next day or so. A boil order remains in place countywide.

In addition, nearly 4,000 people across Lee County are currently staying in 15 shelters. Desjarlais says the county has space for up to 40,000 residents. He told reporters that he expects the shelters to fill up as people struggle with no power and little water.

Lee County officials are also working to increase water, ice and food supplies throughout the county, according to Desjarlais.

A countywide curfew remains in place until further notice.

The Tampa Bay Bucs say Sunday night's NFL game will be played at home

Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:39 PM EDT

Sunday night’s NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will go on as scheduled in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

In a statement released on Thursday, the day after Hurricane Ian devastated the southwest Florida coast, team officials say the game will not be rescheduled.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the many thousands in the Southwest Florida region who have been severely impacted by Hurricane Ian," the franchise said in its statement.

"We are also very thankful that the Tampa Bay area was spared the most damaging consequences of this powerful storm," the statement continues.

The Bucs say the franchise will provide additional resources and information for those in the Tampa area who are in need of assistance after the storm.

Sunday’s game is scheduled to kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET.

Member Station Reports
Staying informed

How to stay informed as Hurricane Ian moves north

Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:31 PM EDT

As Ian moves over Florida and north along the Atlantic, here's how to get the latest storm updates from across the region:

Sign up for alerts

You can sign up for real-time alerts by making sure your phone is set to receive emergency alerts from local, state and federal public safety authorities, as well as downloading the FEMA app.

Get state and local updates

You can monitor the social media accounts of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has this handy list of Hurricane Ian resources (including forecasts, evacuation and shelter information, maps, accounts to follow and safety resources) all on one webpage.

If you want to stay informed while conserving your phone battery and data usage, visit NPR's text-only site at http://text.npr.org.

Georgia

You can follow the Georgia Emergency Management agency on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the websites and social media pages of your county government and emergency management.

Atlanta, Savannah (GPB)

Atlanta, Savannah (WABE)

South Carolina

You can follow the South Carolina Emergency Management Division on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the websites and social media pages of your county government and emergency management.

South Carolina Public Radio

North Carolina

You can follow the North Carolina Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the websites and social media pages of your county government and emergency management.

Asheville (Blue Ridge Public Radio)

Charlotte (WFAE)

Durham-Chapel Hill (WUNC)

Wilmington (WHQR)

Florida

You can follow the Florida Division of Emergency Management on Twitterand Facebook, as well as the websites and social media pages of your county government and emergency management.

Here's how to keep up with your local station:

Tampa Bay (WUSF)

Miami (WLRN)

Fort Myers (WGCU)

Orlando (WMFE)

Jacksonville (WJCT)

fuel

Biden warns gas and oil executives against price gouging, post-hurricane

Posted September 29, 2022 at 2:01 PM EDT

President Biden repeated his warnings to oil and gas executives about hiking gasoline prices in the wake of the storm, noting that less than 2% of daily production had been affected by the storm.

"Do not. Do not. Do not use this storm as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American public," Biden said during remarks while visiting FEMA headquarters.

"America is watching and the industry should do the right thing. I expect them to do the right thing," he added.

Video

See the scenes of devastation from above

Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:55 PM EDT

Emergency responders and county officials are taking to the skies to survey the storm damage and search for people in distress. The footage they're sharing on social media helps convey the scope of the destruction.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno shared this video from a flyover of his county, a particularly hard-hit coastal area where an estimated 90% of the region is now without power. Here's what that looked like:

The U.S. Coast Guard has also been flying over the area and sharing footage from above. You can view those photos here.

Photojournalists have also started to capture aerial images, like these:

A view from above of damaged homes.
Win McNamee
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Getty Images
Damaged homes in Punta Gorda, Fla., are pictured on Thursday, a day after Hurricane Ian moved through the Gulf Coast of Florida.
An aerial view of a beach with remains of homes.
Wilfredo Lee
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AP
An area where homes once stood in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., is pictured on Thursday in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

federal help

Biden says Ian could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida's history

Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:47 PM EDT

President Biden visited FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to hear about the federal response to Hurricane Ian.

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” Biden told reporters after his briefing. With the numbers still unclear, the president noted there had been early reports of “substantial loss of life.”

Biden said he spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis along with mayors and local officials about their needs for the federal response.

“At times like this, America comes together. We’re going to pull together as one team, as one America,” Biden said. “We’re going to do everything we can to provide whatever they need.”

Biden told reporters he plans to visit Florida to thank first responders “when conditions allow" and would also meet with DeSantis, if he is available. The president said he intends to visit Puerto Rico, as well.

Biden was asked by a reporter to describe his relationship and conversations with DeSantis -- a Republican who has fiercely opposed the administration on a host of issues.

“This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically,” Biden said. “This is about saving people's lives, homes and businesses.”

He urged Floridians to obey warnings and directions from emergency officials. “Don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to. It’s risky for you,” Biden said.

logistics

Tampa International Airport will reopen Friday

Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:29 PM EDT

Tampa International Airport says it will resume normal operations on Friday starting at 10 a.m. ET.

In a release tweeted Thursday morning, officials say airport maintenance and operations staff inspected the facilities Thursday morning and did not discover any serious damage as a result of the storm.

Tampa Airport officials urge passengers who are flying out on Friday to arrive at least two hours before their scheduled departure.

Aftermath

Hard-hit hospitals are evacuating patients, and others may feel the strain

Posted September 29, 2022 at 1:17 PM EDT

Hospitals in regions hit by Hurricane Ian are moving patients out of facilities, some because they're out of water and others because their buildings are full of it.

Nine hospitals in Lee County lost water as a result of the storm, according to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

She told MSNBC'sMorning Joe on Thursday that the state is in the process of determining whether water can be restored or if they'll have to evacuate those hospitals.

Hundreds of patients are being evacuated from hospitals across the Fort Myers region on Thursday, the Associated Press reports.

Some of those facilities had to move patients because of structural damage or rising flood waters — as was the case at the Avante nursing home in Orlando, where local media captured footage of responders carrying people through high waters on stretchers.

Mary Mayhew, the president of the Florida Hospital Association, told the AP that other hospitals could feel the strain of the evacuations.

“There is considerable effort underway to rescue individuals who also will need medical care," she said. "And to identify hospital beds available either in the region or elsewhere."

The AP also spoke with Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital in Port Charlotte, where staff members had to move ICU patients (some of whom were on ventilators) onto the few floors that were not damaged.

Bodine said it's already crowded, and that's not including additional patients transported with injuries from the storm.

“The ambulances may be coming soon and we don’t know where to put them in the hospital at this point,” she said. “Because we’re doubled and tripled up.”

Several hospital systems in Florida had preemptively transferred patients to other facilities and canceled nonessential procedures in advance of the storm.

As of 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday — prior to the hurricane making landfall — the Florida Hospital Association said 15 hospitals had carried out evacuations affecting 350 patients. At the time, 22.3% of the state's hospital beds were available.

Aftermath

Lee County sheriff says the hurricane took lives, but it's not yet clear how many

Posted September 29, 2022 at 12:21 PM EDT

In a live interview with the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno clarified his earlier remarks during a national broadcast on Good Morning America.

He said then that “the death toll is in the hundreds” following Hurricane Ian. Clips of that interview appear to no longer be available on GMA's website or Twitter.

Later Thursday morning, Marceno said:

“The deaths could be in the hundreds. We just don’t know. We just don’t know the numbers. We have confirmed deaths — just don’t know that number or how many.”

forecast

All of South Carolina's coast is now under a hurricane warning

Posted September 29, 2022 at 11:44 AM EDT

The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Ian has crossed into the Atlantic Ocean after moving across Central Florida.

It has sustained winds of 70 mph — which is just 4 mph short of Category 1 hurricane strength. The NHC expects it to come ashore in South Carolina on Friday before moving slowly northward across the state.

In its 11 a.m. ET advisory, National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for all of South Carolina's coast, meaning that "hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area."

"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," it adds.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed an emergency declaration on Wednesday to activate the state's emergency preparations plan (Georgia's governor did so earlier in the week as well). Here's a guide to state resources to prepare for a hurricane.

FEMA

Utility crews from more than 30 states are positioned to aid in the recovery

Posted September 29, 2022 at 11:39 AM EDT
Utility trucks were staged ahead of Hurricane Ian near the Florida Turnpike on Wednesday.
Gerald Herbert
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AP
Utility trucks were staged ahead of Hurricane Ian near the Florida Turnpike on Wednesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is ready to help with rescue and recovery as soon as it's safe to move into areas hit by Hurricane Ian, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said Wednesday evening.

FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, as well as teams from the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, other federal agencies and the state of Florida were standing by in Miami on Wednesday, ready to respond and lead search and rescue efforts by land, air and sea.

There were stockpiles of fuel, power generators, and other critical items, as well as personnel to survey damage staged inside and outside of the hardest hit areas, with trucks and heavy equipment ready and waiting.

"We are going to continue to move equipment in as we see where the impacts of the storm are," Criswell said. "And we pre-positioned quite a bit of equipment so we can respond immediately."

More than 33,000 utility workers from more than 30 states were responding Wednesday night, as they were pre-positioned in areas just outside of harm's way, said Scott Aaronson, who heads up disaster preparedness for the Edison Electric Institute, an organization representing all of the nation's investor-owned electric companies.

"Once the storm clears, we do have crews as far away as Alabama and Georgia and up in the Carolinas and from the West, who are going to be ready to then funnel in to the affected area once ... it's safe to do so," Aaronson said.

Meanwhile, nonprofit relief organizations have worked with state and federal officials to fill up warehouses in the region with food, water, clothing and other essentials.

"We have 3.7 million meals and 3.5 million liters of water staged in Alabama," Criswell said. "And there are multiple volunteer agencies that are staged and prepared to perform feeding operations as soon as it is safe to do so."

heroics

TV reporter carries a woman to safety after water drowned her car

Posted September 29, 2022 at 11:24 AM EDT

The terrible flooding that Hurricane Ian brought to Florida left a nurse stranded in her car — until a TV reporter nearby went to her rescue.

WESH TV’s Tony Atkins was covering the storm’s impact on Orange County when he saw the woman in distress. In a dramatic scene captured on video, he then carried her on his back until they reached higher ground. In one hand, he also carried her purse.

“I just had to,” Atkins said, according to his colleague Caelan Dooley, a producer at WESH.

Atkins had been reporting on flooded roads in downtown Orlando, where several hospitals are located.

“She was inside the car, she was waving and just screaming for help,” Atkins said moments afterward, as he reported from the scene. She had been trying to go to work, he said, and hadn't realized the water was so deep until it was too late.

"Thank God" they were able to make it to safety quickly, he added.

WESH posted the video on Facebook, along with a warning: “Never attempt to drive through or go into high water.”

Atkins says the woman's daughter later sent him a thank-you message, in which she said that as an essential worker, her mother faced possible termination if she didn't report to work.

media

Gov. DeSantis says reports of fatalities in Lee County are unconfirmed

Posted September 29, 2022 at 10:54 AM EDT

Reports of fatalities in Lee County are not confirmed, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.

The governor’s comments came in response to a Thursday morning TV interview by Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno, in which the sheriff said, “fatalities are in the hundreds.”

Speaking at a press conference later Thursday morning, DeSantis said officials had not yet been able to confirm any fatalities. Instead, he said, the sheriff had made a guess based on the number of 9-1-1 calls the county had received.

“That number that was put out by Lee [County] is basically an estimate of — these people were calling, the water was rising on their home, they may not have ended up getting through,” DeSantis said. “We’re obviously hoping that they can be rescued at this point.”

Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Lee County sheriff had stressed that he could not give a “true assessment” until search and rescue teams were able to reach the affected areas.

Still, the sheriff said that hundreds had died. “I don’t have confirmed numbers. I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds. There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued,” Marceno said.

Lee County includes the hard-hit cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Many houses in the area are barely above sea level, especially in Cape Coral, where homes are arranged along a network of canals. Videos showed a storm surge reaching near the roofs of some homes.

The governor added that two people so far had been found dead, but couldn’t yet say definitively if the fatalities were linked to the storm.

Politics

Biden and DeSantis are coordinating on hurricane recovery efforts

Posted September 29, 2022 at 10:41 AM EDT
Gov. Ron DeSantis, wearing a suit, gestures while speaking at a podium in front of a blue sign with the Pinellas County logo on it.
Chris O'Meara
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AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center in Largo, Fla., on Monday.

President Biden spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning to discuss federal support for the state's response to Hurricane Ian.

The White House said in a statement that Biden told the governor he will be sending FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to Florida on Friday "to check in on response efforts and see where additional support is needed."

"The President and Governor committed to continued close coordination," the readout concluded.

It's their second phone call about the storm this week. Biden called DeSantis on Tuesday evening, shortly after the governor said at a press conference that he had not heard from him about the hurricane.

Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state of Florida on Thursday morning, making federal funding available for local recovery efforts. It will be available to affected individuals in the following nine counties: Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

In a press conference Thursday morning, DeSantis explained that will allow individual Floridians, especially those who have been displaced by the storm, to seek assistance from FEMA. He also said he expects a similar declaration to be made for other countries in the state.

"I just spoke with the president this morning," DeSantis said. "He offered support, I told him thanks for this, but because the storm has moved inland and caused a lot of potential damage in the center part of our state that we were gonna be asking for those counties to be expanded and included there."

He urged people affected by the storm to take pictures of the waterline in their homes and seek disaster assistance by visiting fema.gov or calling 1-800-621-3262.

infrastructure

2 Florida counties are 'basically off the grid,' Gov. DeSantis says

Posted September 29, 2022 at 9:55 AM EDT

More than 2 million homes in Florida were without power, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press conference Thursday morning.

The two coastal counties most directly hit by the storm — Lee County, home to Fort Myers and Cape Coral, along with Charlotte County, its neighbor to the north — are “basically off the grid at this point,” DeSantis said.

About 75% of the power outages are concentrated across seven southwest Florida counties nearest where the hurricane came ashore. Additional outages in central and northeast Florida, where the hurricane continued after making landfall, could add to the total over the course of the day.

Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, and Sarasota County each had more than 200,000 reported outages.

The damage in Charlotte and Lee County is extensive enough that power infrastructure will require significant rebuilding, the governor added. “There are linemen, there are crews on their way down right now. But that’s going to be more than just connecting a power line back to a pole,” he said.

Communications infrastructure, like cell towers, was also disrupted by the storm. The state has deployed 100 portable cell towers to bring mobile service back to the affected region. Assessments will continue throughout the day.

Damage

Naples Pier, a symbol of the city, is reportedly wiped out

Posted September 29, 2022 at 9:48 AM EDT
Silhouettes of people stand on Naples Pier at sunset.
Spencer Platt
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Getty Images
People stand on Naples Pier shortly before the arrival of Hurricane Irma in Sept. 2017.

Naples Pier — one of the city's most iconic structures and top tourist attractions — has been lost to Hurricane Ian, an official said on Thursday.

Collier County commissioner Penny Taylor said the storm sent waves at least 20 feet high crashing over the historic structure and even tore out its foundation, according to the Associated Press.

“Right now, there is no pier,” Taylor said.

The pier has been a hallmark of Naples since it was completed in 1889 (originally to help transport guests to and from the Old Naples Hotel). A recognizable figure at the municipal beach, it stretched 1,000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico and offered panoramic views as well as plenty of space for fishing.

And for admirers who don't live nearby, the Naples Pier live cam streams 360-degree views of the scene, including many a sunrise and sunset.

In fact, the cameras were still rolling as Hurricane Ian approached. The live stream is unavailable as of Thursday morning, with the screen showing a still photo of waves crashing over the pier against a gray sky.

Here's what the storm looked like at the pier, in footage posted to YouTube by the live streaming company EarthCam:

"It’s hard to fathom life here without this treasure," reads part of a document on the Naples Panorama website about the pier's history.

It notes that the pier has had some close calls in the last century-plus. It was damaged by a variety of storms (and one fire) throughout the first half of the 20th century and needed to be rebuilt after being totally destroyed by hurricanes in 1910 and 1960.

The pier hasn't suffered major damage from storms in the past five decades, the fact sheet says, though it has undergone repairs over the years. Its floor boards were replaced in a major 2015 renovation, and it temporarily shut down for repairs after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Aftermath

The only bridge linking Sanibel Island to the mainland has collapsed

Posted September 29, 2022 at 8:50 AM EDT

Hurricane Ian destroyed several portions of the Sanibel Causeway, the only bridge that leads to Sanibel Island.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed at a Thursday morning briefing that the Sanibel Causeway is one of at least two bridges that are "impassable" and will "require structural rebuilds."

At least three sections of the causeway were washed away by the storm surge, CNN affiliates WBBH and WPLG report, cutting the Sanibel and Captiva islands off from the rest of the state.

Sanibel is a barrier island, home to some 6,500 people and located just south of where the hurricane made landfall.

Lee County had ordered the entirety of the island to evacuate before the storm hit. It would appear that anyone who stayed behind is now stuck there.

That's according to NBC2 anchor Kyla Galer, who tweeted a photo of the disjointed bridge early Thursday morning.

The same sight was confirmed by Tampa Bay Times reporter Zachary T. Sampson and photojournalist Douglas R. Clifford, who ventured out of their Fort Myers hotel room in the early hours of Thursday morning to check on the damage and publish eyewitness accounts on the Times' website.

In a dispatch at 2 a.m. ET, they reported that the half-mile of road leading to the Sanibel Causeway was impassable.

"The pavement is folded up like an accordion, ripped to ribbons by a powerful storm surge," they wrote. "Nearby, a spiral staircase was deposited in the brush next to a white pickup. The storm flung a boat trailer and other debris, too."

They describe seeing sheets of sand strewn across the pavement and watching around 1:30 a.m. as two cars tried unsuccessfully to access the island. One was full of young men who were trying to reach a friend, they added.

At 4:15 a.m., the journalists confirmed that a section of the causeway had been wiped out by the storm:

"An alarm bleats endlessly at the tollbooth for the Sanibel Causeway. Step just beyond it, and the road soon gives way. Where the bridge rises from the mainland toward the island, one of the first sections of the span has disappeared. Crumbled pavement lies near the water’s edge. The rest of the bridge stretches forward, unreachable."

Here's what that looked like, per video tweeted by Anyssa Bohanan of ABC7 Southwest Florida:

Forecast

Ian could become a hurricane again before hitting the southern East Coast

Posted September 29, 2022 at 8:39 AM EDT
Tropical Storm Ian is leaving Florida Thursday, heading out over the Atlantic Ocean - where it will regain some of the power it lost passing over land.
NOAA/NESDIS/STAR
Tropical Storm Ian is leaving Florida on Thursday, heading out over the Atlantic Ocean — where it will regain some of the power it lost passing over land.

Ian is exiting Florida as a tropical storm — but as it moves back over the water, it could regain hurricane status, drawing power from the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters are warning of potential flooding and other impacts, from Florida to North Carolina.

“Some slight re-intensification is forecast, and Ian could be near hurricane strength when it approaches the coast of South Carolina on Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said early Thursday.

The storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, with gusts as high as 70 mph. It’s heading northeast at only 8 mph, a slow pace that heightens the risk of flood-inducing rainfall.

A wide area will be under threat of flooding and high winds. Ian is now projecting tropical storm-force winds up to 415 miles from its center.

The current forecast tracksees Ian moving out northeast over the ocean as it passes Jacksonville, before turning more to the northwest and making landfall between Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

Interview
On the ground

It's too dangerous to be on the roads in Naples right now, city manager says

Posted September 29, 2022 at 8:16 AM EDT

Jay Boodheshwar, the city manager of Naples, Fla., — just south of where Hurricane Ian made landfall yesterday — spoke to Morning Edition's Rachel Martin about what the storm's impact and aftermath look like there.

Listen to their conversation here.

The city is currently under a mandatory curfew since many streets are still flooded and unpassable.

"It is absolutely too dangerous to be on the roads here in Naples," he says.

Boodheshwar says three damage assessment teams tried to go out last night to get a sense of what they would find in the morning, but the team he was with was unable to make it to the south side of the city because of the flooded streets.

Naples started seeing water early yesterday morning as the tide came in and the surge began to grow. Water effectively breached the community from both the gulf side and the bay side, Boodheshwar says, adding there were places where the two bodies of water met.

Preliminary reports show the city experienced up to nine feet of storm surge, according to Boodheshwar. City Hall itself probably experienced about five feet of water from the surface of the road up to the front steps, Boodheshwar says, calling it "significant."

He says at the height of the storm authorities had about 50 pending calls (which they were unable to respond to in the moment) from residents who had managed to get to higher ground but needed help. They rescued about a dozen people who were trapped in their cars by fast-moving waters, he adds.

As the city begins the work of assessing and repairing damage, Boodheshwar says it will definitely need more resources from both the public and private sector, from utility companies to state-assembled strike teams. Is he worried about what those crews will find when they set out this morning?

"We're absolutely concerned," Boodheshwar says. "We're fortunate that most people evacuated, though."

On the ground

As Florida wakes up, Tropical Storm Ian continues its crawl across the state

Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:56 AM EDT
Tree branches cover a wet sidewalk against a grey sky.
Sean Rayford
/
Getty Images
Storm debris litters a street in the wake of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday in Sarasota, Florida.

Hurricane Ian, downgraded from a Category 4 storm to a tropical storm, is continuing to make its way across Florida, leaving some 2 million households without power already.

What are people along Florida's Gulf Coast waking up to this morning?

NPR's Greg Allen, who is in St. Petersburg, rose early to speak with NPR'sUp First. He says while damage assessments have yet to come in, reports and images during the storm showed massive storm surges, particularly in beachfront communities in Naples and Fort Myers.

The hurricane made landfall first on Cayo Costa and later on Punta Gorda — the same two places Hurricane Charley, another Category 4 storm, came ashore in 2004. Crews will be checking damage in areas like Cape Coral and Englewood, which faced hours of storm surge and high winds as Ian slowly moved inland. There has also been wind and surge damage reported up the coast in Sarasota and as far north as St. Petersburg.

Search and rescue teams will be going door-to-door through neighborhoods today to offer help to those who need it, Allen says, and utility officials say they have more than 40,000 workers ready to start restoring power as soon as it's safe to do so. Those efforts will begin today in areas where the winds have dropped and crews can get access (the first step is clearing the roads).

Florida Power and Light, the state's largest utility, is deploying a drone bigger than a private plane to assess the damage from above and has warned that structural damage could take days or weeks to repair.

And more damage is expected as the storm moves slowly throughout central Florida.

It's not predicted to leave the state and pass over the Atlantic Ocean until late this afternoon. Meteorologists and emergency managers say the storm is still very dangerous — the issue at this point isn't so much wind as flooding from heavy rainfall. Allan says there are reports of flooding in the Orlando area already, and that some areas in central and northeastern Florida could see more than two feet.

By the numbers

Preliminary rainfall and wind gust data puts a fine point on Ian's power

Posted September 29, 2022 at 7:50 AM EDT

Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Ian is by no means done causing damage. But as the storm crosses the Florida peninsula, we're starting to get a clearer picture of just how hard it hit areas along the coast on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center tweeted on Thursday morning that the storm's landfall is thought to have brought more than 17 inches of rain over West-Central Florida.

It's tracking reports of rainfall and wind gusts — here are some of those preliminary numbers:

Total rainfall in inches, between 11 a.m. Monday and 10 p.m. Wednesday

  • Lehigh Acres: 14.42
  • North Port: 13.88
  • Clearwater Beach: 10.69
  • Key West: 7.89
  • Miami: 6.12
  • Fort Myers: 6.11
  • Palm Beach International Airport: 4.23

Peak wind gusts in miles per hour, "earlier in the event"

  • Cape Coral: 140
  • Punta Gorda: 124
  • Sarasota: 106
  • Fort Myers: 100
  • Naples Municipal Airport: 62
  • Miami: 48
  • Orlando: 41