Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday morning as it moved northeast across Florida. But before that happened, it battered the coast—and a tropical storm bringing torrential rains can still cause serious damage. Up to 30 inches of rain could fall in some places.
The damage along the coast is only now being assessed, but it’s clearly severe. More than 2.6 million people across the state had lost power. A large chunk of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, the only bridge to Sanibel Island, has collapsed. In Port Charlotte, winds tore away part of the fourth floor roof while the lower level flooded. The fourth floor includes the ICU, and staff scrambled to move patients, including some on ventilators.
No deaths had been officially confirmed in the U.S., but a boat carrying migrants from Cuba sank and as many as 20 people may have drowned, while two people were killed when Ian crossed Cuba. And the full situation in the U.S., again, remains unknown. The sheriff of Lee County, Florida, told Good Morning America there were fatalities in the hundreds, though that’s an unconfirmed estimate at this time. The Coast Guard and Cajun Navy are rescuing people from homes and rooftops.
President Joe Biden signed a disaster declaration that “makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota,” with the possibility of more areas of the state being added.
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This is the only bridge to the island: