Cleanup, power restoration continues in Carolinas after Hurricane Ian leaves 4 dead
Power was coming back online for many of the hundreds of thousands left in the dark following Hurricane Ian’s blow to the region, and crews were out in force clearing storm debris as officials urged caution during the cleanup process.
Recovery from Ian’s final blow as a hurricane was underway across the Carolinas over the weekend following its landfall as a Category 1 storm along the South Carolina coast on Friday. But, as cleanup and power restoration continued, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also urged people to use caution during the cleanup process as he said storm-related incidents claimed the lives of four people.
A 25-year-old man was killed in Johnston County on Friday when he lost control of his vehicle and hydroplaned, striking another vehicle. In another storm-related incident, a 24-year-old woman died when her vehicle went off a wet road and hit a tree. One man, 22, drowned in a flooded swamp after his truck left a roadway in Martin County.
Another fatality occurred the day after the storm swept through, leaving hundreds of thousands still without power. A 65-year-old man was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in Johnston County, North Carolina, on Saturday due to a generator running in his closed garage.
“We mourn with the families of those who have died and urge everyone to be cautious while cleaning up to avoid more deaths or injuries,” Cooper said in an online statement.
By Sunday morning, only nearly 29,000 people were still without power in North Carolina and another 15,000 customers in Virginia were still dealing with no power, according to PowerOutage.us.
High-water rescue teams saved countless numbers of people who were stranded or trapped in coastal towns Friday after Ian's storm surge submerged roads, stalled vehicles and swept into homes.
In Litchfield, South Carolina, rescue crews had to trudge through waist-deep floodwaters to reach residents and pets. Less than five miles south of Litchfield, local police at Pawleys Island, South Carolina, described the flooding as "catastrophic" and documented the end of a pier collapsing before it floated away. Video of water rescues in the town showed floodwaters lapping at the front doors of homes, the roads completely submerged.
Ian made its third United States landfall Friday afternoon around 2:05 p.m. EDT near Georgetown, South Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph -- a Category 1 hurricane.
While the storm had lost a majority of its wind intensity since striking Florida, Ian was still a force to reckon with as its storm surge trapped people in their homes and plunged hundreds of thousands into the dark as it downed power lines.
At Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, the preliminary report of storm surge was the highest on record at 4.18 feet, surpassing the storm surge from Hurricane Joaquin (2015) and Hurricane Florence (2018).
Farther south, in Myrtle Beach, Mayor Brenda Bethune told AccuWeather in an interview on Friday that the storm surge came up “quite high” and a full assessment of the damage in Myrtle Beach was expected to take place on Saturday.
“As far as structural damage, we know of one hotel that lost a roof. Our first responders did have to help evacuate the people that were staying there and we know that another business lost their roof,” Bethune said. “As far as anything further than that we will find out [on Saturday] when our crews are out and about to assess everything.”
Powerful waves from Ian stranded an unoccupied shrimp boat onto the beach at Myrtle Beach. Beachgoers who watched the boat from a little tiny dot in the sea to it being washed up on the sand recalled the event to storm chaser Brandon Clement.
“It was crazy, I mean it was way out there cause all you see is the little light on it and I kept staring at it,” Denise Stallings, a beachgoer who witnessed the event told Clement. ‘It got a little closer and you could tell it was a boat and I was like “wow is somebody on it or what?’ We thought they were really out there fishing.”
Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas all declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Ian, with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warning of heavy rain and significant storm surge along the coastline.
Ian unleashed near 100-mile-per-hour wind gusts along the South Carolina coastline Friday, with a 92-mph gust recorded at Shutes Folly, located in the Folly Island Channel east of downtown Charleston and roughly 60 miles southwest of Georgetown.
Crews from the South Carolina Department of Transportation have responded to over 500 calls for downed trees following the storm, according to the department.
The strong winds contributed to power outages across the Southeast, resulting in a total of over 1.8 million customers without power in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia by early Saturday morning, according to PowerOutage.US. The majority of these outages were focused in Florida, where some 800,000 remain without power following Ian's first two landfalls over the U.S. -- one over a barrier island and the other on the peninsula's mainland. The situation is much improved farther north, with roughly 37,000 customers across North Carolina and South Carolina without power as of early Sunday morning.
South Carolina's Charleston County declared a state of emergency Thursday ahead of landfall, opening shelters for people who needed a place to ride out the storm. Buses were available to transport people to shelters until strong winds made the drive too dangerous, and officials warned people living on the barrier islands or low-lying areas that historically flood to move to higher ground.
Police have closed the north causeway entrance after the effects from Hurricane Ian, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Pawleys Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
As much as 18 inches of floodwater was recorded on the east side of Charleston by the Union Pier Terminal, AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline said.
Georgetown County, where Ian made landfall, didn't issue an evacuation order, but advised residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas to "keep a close eye on conditions." The county didn't open shelters for the event and didn't distribute sandbags, adding that sandbags were available at most hardware stores.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg told AccuWeather that the intensity of the storm did not necessitate an evacuation order, but they did ask citizens to stay home and stay off the roads.
Reporting by AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline and Tony Laubach.
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