Frustration mounts as Hurricane Ian’s effects linger

FLORIDA, United States (AP) — Days after the skies cleared and the winds died down in Florida, Hurricane Ian’s effects persisted Monday as people faced another week without power and others were being rescued from homes inundated with lingering floodwaters.

Frustration mounted as the storm cut through Florida, and the hurricane’s remnants, now a nor’easter, weren’t done with the US.

The mid-Atlantic and north-east coasts were getting flood rain. Forecasters said the storm’s onshore winds could pile even more water into an already inundated Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in more than a decade.

Norfolk and Virginia Beach declared states of emergency as they watched to see how bad Monday’s tides would be. Coastal flooding was possible from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Long Island, the National Weather Service said.

At least 68 people have been confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina, and three in Cuba since Hurricane Ian made its first landfall on the Caribbean island on September 27 and in Florida a day later.

Search and rescue efforts were still ongoing Monday in Florida. More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida’s emergency management agency.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy told NBC’s Today Show that residents who evacuated were largely being kept away from their homes because of searches likely to last a few more days.

Washed-out bridges to barrier islands, flooded roadways, isolated cellphone service, and a lack of water, electricity, or the internet left hundreds of thousands still isolated. The situation in many areas wasn’t expected to improve for several days because waterways were overflowing, leaving the rain that fell with nowhere to go.

In DeSoto County, north-east of Fort Myers, the Peace River and tributaries reached record high levels.

Many residents in the rural county of about 37,000 people could only be reached by boat. What roads remained above water were blocked, according to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, which was assisting with the efforts.

“Right now we are working on creating teams to help find stranded residents and we are dispatching ATVs to help get rid of debris on roadways that were impossible to travel over,” deputies wrote in a Facebook post.

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

Ben Bertat found four inches (10 centimetres) of water in his house by Lake Harney after kayaking there.

“I think it’s going to get worse because all of this water has to get to the lake,” said Bertat, pointing to the water flooding a nearby road. “With ground saturation, all this swamp is full and it just can’t take any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s getting any lower.”

About 600,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity on Monday morning, down from a peak of 2.6 million. But that is still nearly the same amount of customers in all of Rhode Island.

The current goal is to restore power by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Monday. It does not include homes or areas where infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.

In Virginia, the US Navy postponed the first-ever deployment of the USS Gerald R Ford, the nation’s most advanced aircraft carrier, according to a statement from the Navy’s 2nd Fleet. The carrier and other US ships were scheduled to leave Norfolk on Monday for training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean with vessels from other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries.

Coast Guard as well as municipal and private crews have been using helicopters, boats, and even jet skis to evacuate people over the past several days.

After moving across Florida, Ian made another landfall in the US in South Carolina as a much weaker hurricane. Officials said Monday that crews were finishing the removal of sand from coastal roads and nearly all power had been restored.

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