After tearing across Florida and Cuba before that, Hurricane Ian made landfall Friday in South Carolina as forecasters warned of another potential life-threatening storm surge up and down the Carolina coast.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 1 storm came ashore in Georgetown, S.C., northeast of Charleston, shortly after 2 p.m. local time with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph.
More than 15 million people were under a hurricane warning from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, as the forecast predicted a storm surge of up to 7 feet into coastal areas of the Carolinas, and rainfall of up to 8 inches.
Heavy rains and flash floods were expected, and a tornado watch was issued from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Norfolk, Va., until 10 p.m. ET.
President Biden said he spoke with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday morning to pledge the administration’s full assistance after issuing a federal emergency declaration for the state.
In Charleston, S.C., officials urged residents to hunker down as the storm approached.
“Storm surge is real, riptides are real,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said on CNN. “And they kill people.”
It was the third official landfall for Ian after it struck western Cuba as a Category 2 storm on Tuesday, knocking out power to most of the island, before barreling into southwest Florida as a powerful Category 4, cutting a wide path of destruction across the peninsula.
At a press conference earlier Friday, Florida officials said there have been one confirmed death and 20 unconfirmed deaths as a result of the storm — figures that are expected to rise.
Nearly 2 million homes and businesses in the state are without power.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search and rescue teams conducted at least 700 rescues, most of them by air, on Thursday.
Large sections of a causeway that connects Sanibel Island, Fla., to Fort Myers, Fla., washed away in the storm, effectively cutting off access to the island community from the mainland.
“The damage is catastrophic, and it is biblical,” Dana Souza, Sanibel’s city manager, said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Residents “who have lived on Sanibel for many, many years,” he added, “just can’t even understand the damage that we’ve experienced."
The island, home to about 6,300 people, is now accessible only by air or sea. DeSantis said preparations were underway for a barge to ferry supplies to those stranded there.
Biden said the scale of destruction in Florida is “likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history.”
“It’s going to take months, even years, to rebuild,” he said.
The president is expected to visit Florida and Puerto Rico — which is still recovering from Hurricane Fiona — next week.