In the wake of Hurricane Ian, risks persist, in part exacerbated

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — People kayaking in the streets which were passable only a day or two earlier. Hundreds of thousands without power. National Guard helicopters carrying out rescue missions to residents who remain stranded in the Florida barrier islands.

Days after Hurricane Ian carved a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas, dangers remained and even worsened in some places. It was clear that the road to recovery from this monstrous storm would be long and arduous.

And Ian wasn’t done yet. The storm drowned Virginia with rain on Sunday, and officials warned of the possibility of severe flooding along its coast starting Monday night.

The remnants of Ian moved offshore and formed a nor’easter that is expected to pile even more water on an already flooded Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding event in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area in 10 to 15 years. said Cody Poche. , a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The island city of Chincoteague declared a state of emergency Sunday and strongly advised residents in some areas to evacuate. The Eastern Shore and northern part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks were also likely to be affected.

At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.

With the death toll rising, Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a big way, focusing first on victims in Florida, which took the brunt of one of the strongest storms to reach land. in the United States. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.

Flooded roads and washed-out bridges on barrier islands left many people stranded amid limited cell phone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and internet. Officials warned that the situation in many areas is not expected to improve for several days because the rain that has fallen has nowhere to go as waterways overflow.

Fewer than 700,000 Florida homes and businesses remained without power by late Sunday, down from a peak of 2.6 million.

Criswell told “Fox News Sunday” that the federal government, including the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense, had deployed “the largest number of search and rescue assets that I think we’ve ever deployed before.”

But recovery will take time, said Criswell, who visited the state Friday and Saturday to assess the damage and speak with survivors. He warned there were still dangers with downed power lines in standing water.

More than 1,600 people have been rescued across the state, according to Florida Emergency Management.

Rescue missions were underway, especially on Florida’s barrier islands, which were cut off from the mainland when storms destroyed sidewalks and bridges.

The state will build a temporary overpass for the largest, Pine Island, DeSantis said Sunday, adding that a Department of Transportation allotment had been approved for its construction this week and construction could begin Monday.

“It’s not going to be a full bridge, you’ll probably have to cross it at 5 miles an hour or something, but at least it will allow people to get in and out of the island in their vehicles,” the governor told a news conference. .

Coast Guard, municipal and private crews have been using helicopters, boats and even jet skis to evacuate people in recent days.

In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned boots, boots and bug spray to paddle to their flooded homes Sunday.

Ben Bertat found 4 inches (10 cm) of water at his home by Lake Harney after kayaking there.

“I think it’s going to get worse because all this water has to go into the lake,” Bertat said, pointing to water flooding a nearby road. “With soil saturation, this whole swamp is full and it just can’t take any more water. It doesn’t seem to be going any lower.”

Elsewhere, power remained out in at least half of South Carolina’s Pawleys Island, a beach community about 75 miles (115 kilometers) up the coast from Charleston. In North Carolina, the storm brought down trees and power lines.

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Associated Press reporters Rebecca Santana in Ft. Myers? Brendan Farrington and Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee. David Fischer in Miami. Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Va. and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.

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For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: apnews.com/hub/hurricanes

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