Ian downgraded to a tropical storm, millions of Americans without electricity

(Punta Gorda) Ian, whose strength has been reduced to a tropical storm, continued its devastating path toward South Carolina on Thursday after destroying the Florida coast, much of it still plunging into darkness, and causing catastrophic flooding.

Posted at 6:44 AM
Updated at 9:03 am.

Gerard Martinez with Ruben Legrand in Washington
France media agency

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced around 5 a.m.Ian It has weakened to a tropical storm capable of gusts of up to 105 km/h, with assurances that the risks of “potential killer storms”, that is, sea level rise on the coast, will remain significant until Friday along the coasts of Florida as well as neighboring states such as Georgia and South Carolina.

Slightly far from the hurricane’s path, near the US archipelago of the Keys, poor conditions caused a boat carrying migrants to capsize. The Coast Guard was looking for another 20 people, three of them were rescued and four others managed to swim ashore.

Ian It hit the Cayo Costa coast in southwest Florida at 3 p.m. Wednesday when it was an “extremely dangerous” hurricane with winds of up to 150 mph (240 kph). The National Hurricane Center said it caused “catastrophic” flooding there.

In the face of the scale of the damage, US President Joe Biden declared, on Thursday morning, a state of a major natural disaster, a decision to release additional federal funds for the affected areas.

the darkness

About 2.6 million homes or businesses were still without power Thursday morning in Florida, out of a total of 11 million, mainly around the path of the hurricane, according to the specialist website PowerOutage.

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And so the city of Punta Gorda spent the night in the dark. Only a few buildings equipped with generators managed to stay lit, and the only noise around them is the roaring wind and heavy rain.

The city had previously experienced a short respite as the eye of the hurricane passed. But storms and rain came back with more force, bringing down road signs and sweeping away bits of roofs and tree branches.

Jacksonville Airport announced it would be closing Thursday, and those in Tampa and Orlando suspended all commercial flights Wednesday night.

In Naples, photos from MSNBC showed streets and cars completely submerged in the current.

Southwest Florida Township Fire Chief Pete Demara told CNN that his fire station was suddenly flooded with up to two meters of water, preventing his crews from responding to emergency calls.

He said the sudden rise in water “certainly caused a lot of damage in the area,” calling on residents to stay indoors until firefighters can rescue them.

In Fort Myers, a city of more than 80,000 residents, the flooding was so severe that some neighborhoods looked like lakes.

Sometimes the flood exceeded three meters, announced Wednesday evening the governor of the state, Ron DeSantis.

Ian It should appear over the western Atlantic by the end of the day, according to the NHC, which expects a slight further strengthening ofIanwhich “may approach hurricane strength when it makes landfall near South Carolina on Friday.”

Intensification

Ron DeSantis described it as “probably one of the five most powerful hurricanes to ever hit Florida.”

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“This is a storm that will be talked about for many years to come,” NWS Director Ken Graham said at a news conference.

About 3,200 National Guard personnel have been called to Florida, according to the Pentagon, and another 1,800 are on the way.

Cyclone Ian He had hit Cuba earlier on Tuesday, killing two people and plunging the island into darkness. On Wednesday, electricity was restored to some residents of Havana and 11 other provinces, but not in the three worst-hit provinces in the west of the country.

As the ocean surface warms, the frequency of more intense hurricanes increases, with stronger winds and greater precipitation, but not the total number of hurricanes.

According to Gary Lachman, professor of atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University in the US, several studies have shown a “possible link” between climate change and a phenomenon known as “rapid intensification – when a relatively weak tropical storm intensifies into a Category 3 or greater hurricane within 24 hours.” as was the case with Ian.

“There is still consensus that there will be fewer storms in the future, but bigger storms will be more intense,” the scientist told AFP.

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