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Class 5 Hurricane Ian covers southwest Florida in water

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction in southwest Florida, trapping folks in flooded houses, damaging the roof of a hospital intensive care unit and knocking out energy to 2 million folks earlier than aiming for the Atlantic Coast.

One of many strongest hurricanes to ever hit the USA barreled throughout the Florida peninsula in a single day Wednesday, threatening catastrophic flooding inland, the Nationwide Hurricane Middle warned.

The middle’s 2 a.m. advisory mentioned Ian was anticipated to emerge over Atlantic waters afterward Thursday, with flooding rains persevering with throughout central and northern Florida.

In Port Charlotte, alongside Florida’s Gulf Coast, the storm surge flooded a lower-level emergency room in a hospital at the same time as fierce winds ripped away a part of the roof from its intensive care unit, in accordance with a physician who works there.

Water gushed down onto the ICU, forcing employees to evacuate the hospital’s sickest sufferers — a few of whom had been on ventilators — to different flooring, mentioned Dr. Birgit Bodine of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. Employees members used towels and plastic bins to attempt to mop up the sodden mess.

The medium-sized hospital spans 4 flooring, however sufferers had been compelled into simply two due to the harm. Bodine deliberate to spend the evening there in case folks injured from the storm arrive needing assist.

“So long as our sufferers do OK and no person finally ends up dying or having a foul final result, that’s what issues,” Bodine mentioned.

Legislation enforcement officers in close by Fort Myers acquired calls from folks trapped in flooded houses or from anxious family. Pleas had been additionally posted on social media websites, some with video exhibiting debris-covered water sloshing towards houses’ eaves.

Brittany Hailer, a journalist in Pittsburgh, contacted rescuers about her mom in North Fort Myers, whose dwelling was swamped by 5 ft (1.5 meters) of water.

“We don’t know when the water’s going to go down. We don’t know the way they’re going to go away, their vehicles are totaled,” Hailer mentioned. “Her solely manner out is on a ship.”

Hurricane Ian turned streets into rivers and blew down timber because it slammed into southwest Florida on Wednesday with 150 mph (241 kph) winds, pushing a wall of storm surge. Ian’s energy at landfall was Class 4 and tied it for the fifth-strongest hurricane, when measured by wind pace, to ever strike the U.S.

Ian dropped in energy by late Wednesday to Class 1 with 90 mph (144 kph) winds because it moved overland. Nonetheless, storm surges as excessive as 6 ft (2 meters) had been anticipated on the alternative facet of the state, in northeast Florida, on Thursday.

The storm was about 55 miles (90 km) southwest of Orlando with most sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) at 2 a.m. Thursday, the Miami-based hurricane heart mentioned.

A hurricane warning remained in impact north of Bonita Seaside, about 31 miles (50 km) south of Fort Myers, to Anclote River together with Tampa Bay and from Sebastian Inlet to the Flagler/Volusia county line.

The middle discontinued a hurricane warning between Bonita Seaside and Chokoloskee. A tropical storm warning from Chokoloskee to Flamingo on the state’s southwest tip additionally was discontinued.

Hurricane-force winds had been anticipated throughout central Florida by early Thursday with widespread, catastrophic flooding doubtless, the hurricane heart mentioned.

No deaths had been reported in the USA from Ian by late Wednesday. However a ship carrying Cuban migrants sank Wednesday in stormy climate east of Key West.

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search and rescue mission for 23 folks and managed to seek out three survivors about two miles (three kilometers) south of the Florida Keys, officers mentioned. 4 different Cubans swam to Inventory Island, simply east of Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol mentioned. Air crews continued to seek for probably 20 remaining migrants.

The storm beforehand tore into Cuba, killing two folks and bringing down the nation’s electrical grid.

The hurricane’s eye made landfall close to Cayo Costa, a barrier island simply west of closely populated Fort Myers. Because it approached, water drained from Tampa Bay.

Greater than 2 million Florida houses and companies had been left with out electrical energy, in accordance with the PowerOutage.us website. Almost each dwelling and enterprise in three counties was with out energy.

Sheriff Bull Prummell of Charlotte County, simply north of Fort Myers, introduced a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. “for life-saving functions,” saying violators could face second-degree misdemeanor costs.

“I’m enacting this curfew as a way of defending the folks and property of Charlotte County,” Prummell mentioned.

The Climate Underground predicted the storm would cross close to Daytona Seaside and go into the Atlantic earlier than veering again ashore in South Carolina on Friday.

The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia all preemptively declared states of emergency. Forecasters predicted Ian will flip towards these states as a tropical storm, doubtless dumping extra flooding rains into the weekend.

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Related Press contributors embody Christina Mesquita in Havana, Cuba; Cody Jackson and Adriana Gomez Licon in Tampa, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida; Seth Borenstein and Aamer Madhani in Washington; Bobby Caina Calvan in New York; Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, Arizona.

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