The southwest coast of Florida is forever transformed by Hurricane Ian's devastating winds and historic storm surge. Gov. Ron DeSantis is describing it as a "500-year flood event" across a swath of Florida.
As of Friday morning, state officials said 21 people are believed to have been killed in the storm, and search and rescue efforts are ongoing.
And Hurricane Ian's destruction didn't end in Florida. The still-dangerous Category 1 storm regained power out over the Atlantic, making a second U.S. landfall between Charleston and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina with winds of 85 mph.
The National Hurricane Center reported life-threatening flooding, storm surge, and strong winds in the Carolinas.
President Biden declared an emergency in South Carolina ahead of the storm, and federal help is on standby to supplement local response efforts, including aid for those who don't have insurance and who have lost property.
Meanwhile, in southwest Florida, the focus has been on search and rescue.
Roughly 700 rescues were conducted on Thursday, mostly by air, with help from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard, and urban search-and-rescue teams. Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson said, "Very challenging circumstances for our rescuers. They're dealing with high water, you know, cities that don't look like cities anymore."
Ian knocked out electricity for 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers. More than 2 million of them are still in the dark.
"The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that was done has been historic," Gov. DeSantis said.
Residents who chose to ride out the storm in areas like hard-hit Fort Myers have witnessed total destruction all around them. North Fort Myers resident James Burdette said, "I literally watched my house disappear with everything in it right before my eyes."
Robert Leisure surveys his business, Getaway Marina, which was destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Aerial videos show a landscape forever changed by both the strength of a Category 4 hurricane and the "once in 500-years" flooding that came with it.
Demolished homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, FL. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
A historic pier is gone, and parts of the Sanibel Causeway have been washed away. Many homes and businesses were still covered by water.
Resident Joe Orlandini's home was flooded. "We weren't prepared for this - quite a storm of this magnitude we were hoping it would dodge us and it didn't. It got worse," he said.
While southwest Florida got the worst of Ian, nearly the entire state was affected. The east coast of Florida has also been experiencing significant flooding. "We started to see the water coming through the window," a Jacksonville shop owner said. "I would say it'd take a few days to get everything cleaned."
As rescue teams continue their work, more help is on the way. American Red Cross volunteers from Connecticut to Rhode Island are headed south, and Operation Blessing is already on site in Florida with a warehouse stocked and ready to deploy.
Roughly 2.17 million residents have been left without power, and over 10,000 people have hunkered down in shelters. Thankfully, our USDR team weathered the #storm safely.
— Operation Blessing (@operationbless) September 29, 2022