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Biden warns of 'substantial loss of life' as Ian strengthens back into a hurricane

More than 2.6 million customers across Florida were without power Thursday as many grappled with flooding and damaged homes.

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President Joe Biden said Hurricane Ian may be responsible for "substantial loss of life" and could end up being the deadliest storm in Florida history.

By Thursday night, the death toll had climbed to 12, although the state has refused to officially comment on deaths.

Nearly 2 million homes and businesses across Florida remained without power after Ian walloped the state as one of the most powerful storms to ever hit the U.S.

Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday morning after it slammed into Florida’s southwest coast as a major Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon, bringing winds of 150 mph and life-threatening storm surge. It increased in power back to a hurricane by Thursday evening.

Ian is expected to approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday.

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Hurricane Ian’s winds strengthen to 85 mph as it moves toward South Carolina

Hurricane Ian’s winds increased to 85 mph as it moved toward an expected landfall on South Carolina’s coast Friday, forecasters said.

At 11:15 p.m. Thursday, maximum sustained winds for the storm were 85 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, which made the announcement after hurricane hunter aircraft investigated the storm.

Ian was a Category 4 hurricane when it struck Florida, causing what officials say was historic damage. It weakened to a tropical storm before regaining hurricane status over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday.

Its center was about 185 miles south of Charleston and was moving northeast at 10 mph, according to the hurricane center. It is expected to move into South Carolina on Friday, bringing what the weather agency warns is life-threatening storm surge, flooding and strong winds.


As Fort Myers takes stock of Ian’s damage, residents look for reasons to be hopeful

FORT MYERS, Fla. — This was a city Thursday where yachts were parked on the street and hundreds of cars were underwater, thanks to Hurricane Ian and its deadly and destructive force.

The roads that weren’t flooded were lined with disemboweled homes, some stripped of their roofs, and littered with once-proud palm trees torn up by the roots that, in many cases, were snapped like matchsticks.

Many downtown stores were boarded up, while others were reduced to splinters. And at the few gas stations that had reopened, long lines of motorists waited to fill up.

Read the full story here.

People come to the rescue in the wake of Hurricane Ian

Disney World to reopen Friday as Hurricane Ian passes north

Walt Disney World Resort will resume theme park operations on a phased-in basis starting Friday, the company said in a statement Thursday, as Hurricane Ian moves north.

The Disney Springs shopping area will also reopen Friday, the company said.

“We continue to closely monitor weather conditions as we assess the impact of Hurricane Ian on our property,” it said. “While theme parks and many operating areas remain closed to guests [Thursday], we anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening.” 

Read the full story here.

Naples, Florida, recovering after Hurricane Ian rocked community

Parts of South Carolina could get up to 8 inches of rain

The National Hurricane Center is cautioning residents of the Carolinas that Ian could cause “life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds” Friday.

The storm was about 185 miles from Charleston and moving northeast at 10 mph with sustained winds of 80 mph Thursday night when the center issued its 11 p.m. advisory.  

Ian could grow stronger before its landfall, forecasters said. It’s expected to approach the South Carolina coast Friday before it moves inland across the Carolinas into Saturday.

Parts of South Carolina could get up to 8 inches of rain.

Charleston residents told to ‘hunker down’ as Ian threatens

The mayor of South Carolina’s largest city told residents to “hunker down” and to treat Hurricane Ian seriously as it approached with a potential storm surge of up to 7 feet.

“Tomorrow, when this storm is upon us, stay home, stay out of harm’s way,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said at a news conference.

Ian, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm after it struck Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, regained hurricane strength over the Atlantic Ocean as it approached South Carolina’s coast, forecasters said.

The storm was a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and its center was about 215 miles south of Charleston at 8 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was moving northeast at 10 mph.

If it strikes South Carolina as a hurricane Friday, Ian will be the first storm to have made landfall in the state as a hurricane since Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

A storm surge warning covered the entire South Carolina coast Thursday evening, and the storm surge for a stretch of coast that includes Charleston could be 4 to 7 feet, the weather agency said.

Low-lying areas of Charleston, including the hospital district, "could see inundation tomorrow," the mayor said.

At least 2 dead on Sanibel Island after Hurricane Ian, official says

At least two people died on Sanibel Island, Florida, after Hurricane Ian struck the region, Sanibel’s city manager said Thursday.

Additional information about the two deaths was not immediately available. The deaths bring the total storm-related fatalities across the state to 12.

The Category 4 storm wrecked a causeway linking Sanibel with Florida’s mainland, with five breaches, officials said.

Officials ferried first responders and workers to the island and removed 12 people who were injured and 40 others who were not injured by boat Thursday, City Manager Dana Souza said in a video briefing.

“You’ve seen the aerial photos and the news reports — on the ground, it’s pretty severe damage,” he said from Fort Myers.

Mayor Holly D. Smith said a storm surge of 8 to 15 feet struck the island. Sanibel normally has a population of around 6,300. She said it is believed about 200 households did not evacuate.

Ian made landfall around 3 p.m. Wednesday near Cayo Costa, which is only around 20 miles from Sanibel, with 150 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

President Joe Biden to make remarks on Ian response

President Joe Biden on Friday is expected to discuss the federal response to the disaster in Florida wrought by Hurricane Ian, according to a schedule.

Biden said Thursday that Ian, which was a Category 4 storm when it made landfall on Florida’s western coast Wednesday, could be the deadliest hurricane in state history.

The president said he has offered full federal support for Florida, and on Thursday he approved a major disaster declaration, which will allow for more federal aid.

At least 10 deaths in Florida have been attributed to the storm, according to an NBC News count of reports from officials. Search and rescue efforts continued Thursday. The hurricane brought devastating storm surge and heavy rain, which caused flooding.

Ian could be first hurricane to hit South Carolina since Matthew in 2016

Hurricane Ian is forecast to become the first hurricane to make direct landfall on South Carolina’s coast since Hurricane Matthew six years ago, the governor said in urging residents to take it seriously.

Ian regained hurricane status as a Category 1 storm over the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday after it struck Florida as a Category 4 storm Wednesday, officials said.

“We know that this is going to be a serious storm,” Gov. Henry McMaster said at a news conference Thursday, adding that the state was making preparations.

Ian is forecast to approach the South Carolina coast Friday and make landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Storm surge warnings covered the entire South Carolina coast, as well as part of the northeast Florida coast, at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Charleston area could get a storm surge of 4 to 6 feet, the weather agency said. Ian could also bring 4 to 8 inches of rain to northeast South Carolina and up to a foot in some spots. .

Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina as a Category 1 storm on Oct. 8, 2016. It killed four people in South Carolina and 25 in North Carolina; almost all of the deaths were flood-related, according to the National Hurricane Center. Two people also died in Florida, two died in Georgia, and one person died in Virginia from the storm.

Hurricane Ian leaves Florida’s southwest coast unrecognizable

Deaths rise to 3 in Cuba; power outages remain after Ian

Three people have been confirmed dead in Cuba after it was struck by Hurricane Ian, local media reported, citing the government.

Cuba’s electric company has reported that power outages are still widespread across the island. Power remains completely out in western Pinar del Río province, the area most devastated by the storm.

Ian struck western Cuba on Tuesday as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, the National Hurricane Center in the U.S. has said.

It made landfall around 4:30 a.m. near the town of La Coloma.

500 rescued in Lee and Charlotte counties since landfall

More than 500 people have been rescued in Florida’s Lee and Charlotte counties in the wake of destruction and flooding caused by Hurricane Ian, the state Emergency Management Division said Thursday.

Ian made landfall in Lee County as a Category 4 storm Wednesday with 150 mph winds and a storm surge. Charlotte County is north of Lee County.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais, who with others took an assessment trip by helicopter Thursday, said it’s the worst storm damage he has ever seen.

“It’s very clear to see where the storm came on shore and then just churned with 140 mph winds,” Desjarlais said. He said that some of the greatest damage is in Fort Myers Beach and that other barrier islands also suffered extensive damage.

Florida had more than 2.6 million power outages at 3 p.m. Thursday, the Emergency Management Division said.

Ian had 10% more rain because of climate change, scientists say

Human-caused climate change increased Hurricane Ian’s extreme rainfall rates by more than 10%, according to a preliminary analysis from scientists who study extreme weather.

The analysis has not been peer-reviewed; researchers Kevin Reed of Stony Brook University and Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory relied upon the same methodology they used for a peer-reviewed study of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

A warmer atmosphere can contain more water vapor.

“These are conservative estimates on the human-induced increases in rain using our peer-reviewed method,” Wehner said by email. “Climate change didn’t cause the storm, but it did cause it to be wetter.”

Hurricane Ian death toll increases to at least 9

At least nine people have died following Hurricane Ian's vicious lashing through Florida, according to an NBC News tally.

Two people died in Sarasota, the county's sheriff's department said. One person was confirmed dead in Volusia County, and six more died in Charlotte County.

Identifications have not been released, and the state has refused to officially comment on deaths.

Florida hospitals without running water evacuate patients

Three of four hospitals in the Lee Health system in southwest Florida have been forced to evacuate patients because of a lack of running water.

The hospitals also lost power and are using backup generators.

"We've been faced with an unprecedented challenge with this hurricane," Dr. Larry Antonucci, the health system’s CEO and president, said in a video on Facebook. "It has caused devastation throughout our community and is putting an incredible strain on our health system."

Emergency departments will remain open. Patients who need to be admitted to the ER will be transferred to other facilities.

Ian strengthens back into a hurricane, taking aim at Georgia and the Carolinas

After having been labeled a tropical storm for most of Thursday, Ian was upgraded to a hurricane once again.

The National Hurricane Center said in its advisory for 5 p.m. ET that Ian was “taking aim at the Carolinas and Georgia with life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds.”

The storm is moving north-northwest at around 10 mph, with maximum sustained winds increasing to 75 mph with stronger gusts, the NHC said.

Ian will approach the South Carolina coast Friday, and the center of the storm is forecast to move inland across the Carolinas on Friday night into Saturday.

“Ian could slightly strengthen before landfall tomorrow, and is forecast to rapidly weaken over the southeastern United States late Friday into Saturday,” the advisory said. 

Aerial video shows flames engulfing flooded home damaged in Lee County

Internet access is down across Florida areas hit by Ian

Areas of the Florida’s southwest coast were experiencing widespread cellphone and internet outages Thursday after they were battered by Hurricane Ian, according to federal watchdogs and private companies that monitor connectivity.

More than half a million Floridians had lost their landline telephone, home internet or cable services or some combination, the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday in a status report about the damage to Florida’s telecommunications services.

About 11% of cellphone towers across the state were out of service, the report found. It’s particularly bad in four counties — Charlotte, Hardee, Henry and Lee — where more than 60% of towers were not functioning.

Even though the storm has passed Florida, telecommunications providers rely on local power providers to keep running. While they may temporarily rely on backup generators in emergency situations, those will eventually run out of fuel.

Read the full story here.

Florida resident secured paralyzed husband to hospital bed, gave him life jacket

A Florida woman used duct tape, tarpaulin, blankets, pillows and zip ties to secure her paralyzed husband to his hospital bed as Hurricane Ian battered their Punta Gorda home.

She also gave him a life jacket in case water flooded their home, some 24 miles north of Fort Myers.

“I don’t want him to die,” Renee Smith told NBC News’ Kerry Sanders Thursday in an emotional interview.

The Florida couple had recently returned home from the hospital after Smith’s husband, Christopher, became paralyzed from the chest down due to prostate cancer that metastasized to his spine.

He was scheduled to undergo radiation treatment on Wednesday but it was canceled due to the hurricane, which made landfall Wednesday afternoon and knocked out power to more than 2.6 million people across Florida.

“It was terrifying,” she said.

Read the full story here.

At least 6 dead in Charlotte County after Hurricane Ian, commissioner says

Charlotte County Commissioner Christopher Constance, who represents the Punta Gorda area, told MSNBC that the death toll in his county, according to a county administrator, stands at six.

Charlotte County is on Florida's west coast, where Ian made landfall on Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

Including a fatality reported in the city of Deltona in Volusia County overnight, that brings the death toll in Florida after Ian to seven.

The state of Florida and the Florida Dept. of Emergency Management is not confirming or discussing the number of fatalities in the state at this time.

Homeland Security secretary says department is ‘devoted’ to recovery after Hurricane Ian

Woman desperately searches for mom in Fort Myers after seeing her home almost submerged by Ian

One mom of two is desperately searching for her own mother after seeing her mom’s house under water after Tropical Storm Ian hit Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.

Beth Booker, 32, was not surprised when her 78-year-old mom, Carole McDanel, said she wanted to stay in her Fort Myers home as Hurricane Ian neared the Florida coast.

“We’ve had that home for 24 years,” Booker told TODAY Parents. “She’s a very stubborn, set-in-her-ways fantastic person and she’s strong — she’s tough as nails.”

Booker and her husband drove to Fort Myers from their home in North Naples, Florida the day before the storm hit to help fortify her mother’s impact windows, put up shutters, make sure she had lanterns, batteries and water and move all the family heirlooms to higher ground.

Read the full story here.

U.S. Coast Guard aerial videos show Ian's devastation in Florida

Sarasota vice mayor on Ian damage: ‘My yard looks like a war zone’

Sarasota Vice Mayor Kyle Battie told MSNBC on Thursday his home “looked like a war zone” in the wake of Hurricane Ian. 

“There’s just debris everywhere — it looks disastrous,” Battie said. 

Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida not far from where Ian made landfall, was hit with hurricane-force winds. “A number of downed trees, and some home damage, due to the wind,” he said. 

But Battie says the community has already begun digging out of the damage. “The one thing that I do see is everyone helping one another,” he said. 

Ian forecast to still produce life-threatening flooding in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas

Although Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm after hitting Florida, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is predicted to generate life-threatening flooding and storm surge as it churns up the Atlantic coast of the United States.

“Ian forecast to produce life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds across portions of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas,” it said in its Thursday afternoon advisory.

As of 2:00 p.m. ET, Ian had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. But the agency again warned that Ian is expected to regain strength to a hurricane Friday after it leaves Florida and curves back into the Carolinas.

“A turn toward the north is expected late today, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest with an increase in forward speed Friday night,” the advisory said. “On the forecast track, Ian will approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday. The center will move farther inland across the Carolinas Friday night and Saturday."

Sanibel was hit with a 'biblical storm surge,' DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sanibel, an island community in southwest Florida, was hit hard by Hurricane Ian and described the scene simply as “destruction.”

“It got hit with really biblical storm surge and it washed away roads, it washed away structures that were not new and could withstand that,” he said at a Thursday afternoon news briefing.

Photos circulated on social media earlier Thursday showing a gaping hole in the causeway that connects the island to the mainland. About 50 to 65 feet of the Sanibel Causeway collapsed during the storm, dumping parts of the roadway into the Gulf of Mexico.

DeSantis said there is ongoing efforts to safely evacuate residents cut off by the storm. He said the bridge will be rebuilt but noted “that’s not something that will happen overnight.”

Verizon, AT&T waive talk and text limits to cellular customers in areas impacted by Ian

Verizon Wireless is providing unlimited talk, data and text messages to customers in more than 20 counties affected by Hurricane Ian “so residents can focus on what matters most.”

“In the wake of the worst storm to hit Southwest Florida in decades, Verizon’s network continues to withstand the storm with few concentrated areas of impact to our network primarily along the west coast of Florida from Tampa through Naples where the ferocity of the storm concentrated its power,” the company said in a news release Thursday.

Verizon said its prepaid and postpaid customers do not have to take any action to take advantage of the offer, and can verify their eligibility by entering their ZIP code at It will be provided through Oct. 4.

Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties — some of the hardest-hit ones — are included. To see the full list of counties, click here.

AT&T also announced its efforts to help affected customers and said it is allowing other carrier’s customers to roam on their networks. It is also waiving talk, text and data coverage charges in impacted areas, a news release states.

Tropical Storm Ian expected to become hurricane again after leaving Florida

Florida Gulf Coast University closes its residential facilities

Florida Gulf Coast University, located in Fort Myers, said its residential halls are closed until further notice. The announcement was made on the FGCU Housing account on Instagram.

“Until further notice, housing facilities remain closed and students are not permitted to return to the residence halls,” the statement on Instagram reads. “Housing staff are currently assessing all facilities to determine when residents may return.”

The university said it would continue to keep students updated. Nearly 16,000 students were enrolled at FGCU in 2021, according to its website. More than 4,700 lived in the dorms, it states.

On Wednesday, the housing account announced the dorms had been evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival.

FGCU canceled classes until Sept. 30, according to its website.

Daytona Beach begins recovery efforts after 'unprecedented flooding'

As Ian moves up the East Coast, Daytona Beach has begun recovery efforts after the storm brought “historic” flooding to Florida.

Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry advised that water intrusion was the biggest danger posed to the community. 

“We have unprecedented flooding issues in areas we were apprised of and concerned about,” Henry said Thursday morning on MSNBC. 

Although the hurricane weakened into a tropical storm Thursday, heavy rain and flooding risks persisted.

With uncertain conditions, Henry advised all residents of Daytona Beach to be safe and smart while exiting their homes in the aftermath of Ian. “County and local officials are working hand and hand to make sure we execute the plan— we just want residents to make the best decisions because safety is the biggest priority,” he said. 

Biden warns of 'substantial loss of life' and says Ian may be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history

President Joe Biden Biden said Hurricane Ian may be responsible for a "substantial loss of life."

“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida history," Biden said following a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.  "Numbers are still unclear, but we're hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life ... I spoke with the commissioners and they are worried.”

He said he will travel to Florida to survey the damage from Hurricane Ian and thank first responders once conditions on the ground improve.  

Biden said he was also planning to go to Puerto Rico, which was struck by Ian days before the storm made landfall in Florida, and committed to continue providing assistance there.

He said he planned to meet with Gov. Ron DeSantis when he visits Florida. While the two have butted heads politically, Biden said it hasn’t affected their discussions around the storm.

“He complimented me, he thanked me for the immediate response we had, he told me how much he appreciate it, said he was extremely happy with what’s going on,” Biden said when asked about their interactions.

Tampa International Airport will reopen Friday

Biden says he's given DeSantis 'every single thing he's asked for' related to Ian aid

President Joe Biden told the Democratic Governors Association on Wednesday he's been "completely responsive" to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' requests for federal aid.

"We’ve given ... the governor every single thing he’s asked for in terms of emergency response," Biden said during the private reception, the transcript of which was released by the White House on Thursday.

As Hurricane Ian becomes what Biden said "may turn out to be the most consequential hurricane they’ve had in a long, long time," he said he would do "whatever the people of Florida need." The remarks appear to put aside his stark political differences with DeSantis, a Republican who is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.

But during the rest of the remarks, Biden spoke about how the country is at an "inflection point," taking direct aim at "MAGA Republicans" on policies such as gun control and climate change. In the speech, Biden did not mention immigration, on which the White House has sparred with DeSantis in recent weeks.

No storm-related deaths in Hillsborough County, but Lee and Charlotte counties 'may not be so lucky'

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said there are no storm-related deaths in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, but added that Lee and Charlotte counties “may not be so lucky.”

Officials held a news conference Thursday and thanked the Hillsborough community and its residents for following evacuation orders. “I’ve never seen this community gets so well prepared in over my 30 years of law enforcement experience,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

County Administrator Bonnie Wise said that Hurricane Ian’s “last minute move to the east” also spared the region from the worst rain and winds. “Hillsborough County was very fortunate in the final track of Hurricane Ian took,” she said.  

Chronister said he spoke with the sheriff in Lee County, who said that they suffered “catastrophic loss and total devastation” and that the death toll is believed to be in the hundreds. 

During a news briefing Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Lee and Charlotte counties are “basically off the grid.”

Island community of Sanibel cut off and isolated after Ian destroys causeway

A large section of a causeway connecting an island in southwestern Florida to the mainland collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving anyone who did not evacuate stranded, as Hurricane Ian left a path of devastation through the state Wednesday.

Approximately 50 to 65 feet of the Sanibel Causeway collapsed as Hurricane Ian roared through southwest Florida on Wednesday, NBC affiliate WBBH reported Thursday morning, as the destruction left behind by Ian comes into focus.

Read the full story here.

As Ian moves through U.S., hurricane warning extended for South Carolina coast

Ian has made its way through Florida, where the storm has left a trail of extensive damage, but it continues to pummel other states. Although currently downgraded to a tropical storm, Ian could restrengthen to a hurricane before it hits Sough Carolina.

The National Hurricane Center on Thursday morning has issued hurricane warnings for the entire coast of South Carolina, a tropical storm warning extended to a portion of the North Carolina coast and discontinued the same warning for the Florida coast.

In North Carolina and South Carolina, storm surge watches were issued for the South Santee River and the Pamlico River, while others, such as the Neuse River and the St. Johns River, were given storm surge warnings.

U.S. Coast Guard aerial photos show the scope of damage

Image: Coast Guard conducts overflights in wake of Hurricane Ian
Fort Myers area in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022.Petty Officer 3rd Class Kruz Sanders / U.S. Coast Guard
Image: Coast Guard conducts overflights in wake of Hurricane Ian
Fort Myers area in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022.Petty Officer 3rd Class Kruz Sanders / U.S. Coast Guard
Image: Coast Guard conducts overflights in wake of Hurricane Ian
A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Miami, Florida, conducts overflights around the Fort Myers area in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022. Petty Officer 3rd Class Kruz Sanders / U.S. Coast Guard
Image: Coast Guard conducts overflights in wake of Hurricane Ian
A U.S. Coast Guard aircrew from Air Station Miami, Florida, conducts overflights around western Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022. U.S.Coast Guard

Evacuation orders lifted in Manatee County, but officials still urge caution

Evacuation orders were lifted in Manatee County, Florida, on Thursday morning and residents were told they could return to their homes, but officials still want people to take precautions.

“This is not an all-clear,” County Administrator Scott Hopes said in a news release. “There are still hazards out there. And you need to understand the danger.”

The mandatory orders had been in place since Tuesday, one day before Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s west coast. More than 2.5 million customers across the state were without power as of Thursday morning.

Officials in Manatee County said they have received reports of downed power lines, fallen trees and scattered limbs and that power crews are already working to clean up the areas.

23 people in Florida rescued by U.S. Coast Guard, number expected to climb

The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued 23 people in Florida and expects that number to climb, Peter Gautier, its deputy commandant, said.

Most of the rescues have been by helicopter, he said during an appearance Wednesday on Fox News. The Coast Guard has boats available and will be “moving to assist in the lifesaving mission" after Hurricane Ian slammed into the state Wednesday, he said.

“The top priority is saving lives,” he said. “In the days leading up to the storm’s landfall, the Coast Guard moved all its cutters, aircraft and small boats out of the area so we could be positioned to bring those back in. That’s happening right now as we speak.”

Firefighters rescue stranded residents in Orange County, Florida

Image: Orange County Hurricane Ian
Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office via AP

Across Orange County, Florida, on Thursday, firefighters helped residents stranded by Hurricane Ian.

Image: Orange County Hurricane Ian
Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office via AP
Image: Orange County Hurricane Ian
Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office via AP

How Ian compares to Charley

Hurricane Ian's devastating landfall along Florida's southwestern coast drew "eerily similar" comparisons to Hurricane Charley, which slammed the same region of the peninsula in 2004.

Though Ian was much larger and moving slower Wednesday afternoon when it hit near Cayo Costa, just west of Fort Myers, both hurricanes were Category 4 storms when they came ashore.

Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, noted on Twitter that Ian closely followed Charley's path through the Caribbean, adding that both storms made landfall in western Cuba before slamming into Florida's Gulf Coast.

But while the two storms share some similarities, experts have said that storm surge, flooding and rainfall intensity from Ian were expected to be more severe.

High floodwaters in hard-hit Naples prevented crews from assessing damage

High floodwaters in Naples, Florida, prevented crews from assessing the damage from Hurricane Ian on Wednesday night, city manager Jay Boodheshwar said on NBC’s “TODAY” show. 

“We had assembled three assessment teams last night to try and get a feel for what we were in for this morning. Unfortunately, the water wasn’t receding fast enough,” he said. “And then we had some complications with the king tide last night a little bit after midnight. So our crews have been out pre-dawn assessing streets.”

Boodheshwar urged residents to stay out of the high waters and let the crews work. The teams have already begun removing cars and trying to “identify where the extremely hazardous locations are,” he said.

Evacuation orders for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties lifted

Evacuation orders for Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located, and Pinellas County, where Clearwater and St. Petersburg are based, were lifted Thursday morning.

"As the path of Hurricane Ian takes it and its hazardous conditions away from Hillsborough County, and following initial safety assessments, County Administrator Bonnie M. Wise has rescinded existing Orders of Evacuation for Hillsborough County," Hillsborough County said in a Twitter statement.

Pinellas County said crews and first responders were "proactively conducting damage assessments and response as needed," but said mandatory evacuation orders had been lifted for all evacuation zones, mobile home communities and residential health care facilities.

Internet outages hit Florida coast

Some areas of the Florida Gulf Coast are experiencing severe internet outages from Hurricane Ian.

Two of the major internet providers there, Xfinity and Spectrum, have had severe connection issues, said Isik Mater, the director of research at NetBlocks, a company that tracks internet connectivity globally. (Xfinity is owned by Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

Comcast service in the city of Port Charlotte is “almost totally gone at the moment,” Mater told NBC News. Neither Xfinity not Spectrum immediately responded to requests for comment.

More than 70 medical responders and supplies from National Disaster Medical System deployed

More than 70 medical responders and supplies from the National Disaster Medical System have been deployed to Florida as the state begins to assess the devastation from Hurricane Ian.

"We’re monitoring the situation and we’re prepared to provide additional support as needed," tweeted Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response.

The storm slammed into Florida's west coast on Wednesday as a major Category 4, sending waves of water rushing down city streets, destroying buildings and homes, and leaving millions of residents without power. President Joe Biden on Thursday declared a major disaster in Florida over the destruction caused by the storm.

Biden approves Florida disaster declaration, speaks with DeSantis

President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for Florida that will make federal funding available to nine affected counties that will include grants for temporary housing, home repairs, and loans to cover uninsured property losses, the White House said in a statement Thursday morning.

The president spoke Thursday morning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the steps the federal government is taking in response to the storm, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet.

Biden will get a briefing on the storm Thursday afternoon from FEMA.

At least 2 unconfirmed deaths reported in connection with Ian, DeSantis says

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that at least two unconfirmed deaths had been reported in connection with Hurricane Ian.

"We don't know that they're linked to the storm," he said. However, he added it appeared likely that they were.

DeSantis also appeared to address comments made earlier Thursday by Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno expressing fears that the death toll could be in the "hundreds."

"None of that is confirmed," he said.

DeSantis added there were concerns for residents who reported being trapped by flooding. "That water was very high," he said.

Marceno, who made the comments during an interview with “Good Morning America,” had made clear that he did not have “confirmed numbers” on any potential death toll.

Early morning scenes in Punta Gorda, Florida

A man walks through debris on a street in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Punta Gorda, Fla., on Thursday.Ricardo Arduengo / AFP - Getty Images
A partially submerged boat in Punta Gorda.
A partially submerged boat in Punta Gorda.Ricardo Arduengo / AFP via Getty Images

At least 9 hospitals in Lee County 'have no water,' FEMA administrator says

At least nine hospitals in Lee County "have no water" after Hurricane Ian tore through the area after making landfall on Florida's southwest coast, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said Thursday.

"The reports that I have this morning is that Lee County’s water has been disrupted and so we’re focused on a couple of things," Criswell said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"We know there’s nine hospitals in Lee county that the state is looking at right now to determine whether or not we’re going to be able to get water restored to them, or whether or not they’re going to have to be evacuated," she said, adding: "They have no water."

Boats damaged in Fort Myers, Florida

Image: Hurricane Ian Slams Into West Coast Of Florida
Boats are pushed up on a causeway after Hurricane Ian passed through the area Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Man dies during Hurricane Ian while trying to drain pool, authorities say

A Deltona, Florida, man drowned overnight after authorities said he went outside during Hurricane Ian to drain his pool. The man's wife called Volusia sheriff's office around 1 a.m. to report that he had disappeared after going out in the storm, a news release states.

"While searching for him, deputies found his flashlight, then spotted the victim unresponsive in a canal behind the home," the sheriff's office said.

The man, 72, died at the hospital. His name has not been released.

A preliminary investigation indicates that the man was using a hose to drain the pool down a hill and into a canal, where there was a steep decline into the water. Because of the heavy rain, the area was extremely soft and slippery.

Lee County sheriff expresses fears fatalities could be in the 'hundreds'; FEMA chief says no confirmed reports on any deaths yet

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno expressed fears Thursday morning that fatalities from Hurricane Ian could as high as in the "hundreds," but later walked back those comments, saying he did not know the number of potential deaths connected to the storm.

As of early Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said there had been at least two deaths reported in connection to the storm, but he said officials were still working to confirm whether they were related to Ian.

Speaking in an interview with "Good Morning America," Marceno said he feared hundreds could potentially be dead. However, he made clear that he did not have "confirmed numbers" on the death toll.

Around two hours later, he appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

"I don’t know the exact number," he said. "We really got hit hard. I will tell you we’re assessing as we speak, answering calls, we prioritize our calls, and the safety and security of our residents is number one."

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN she did not have any confirmed reports yet on fatalities.

"I understand that some of the sheriffs are saying that they expect a large number of fatalities, but that's why we want to get our search and rescue teams out there. That's why they're out there," she said. "We want to save as many lives as possible."

Over 2.5 million customers without power in Florida

Hurricane Ian has left over 2.5 customers without power as of around 7:30 a.m. ET Thursday, according to the online tracking site

Residents along the state’s southwest coast, where Ian made landfall Wednesday, were hit the hardest, according to the online tracker.

Biden declares major disaster in Florida over Hurricane Ian

President Joe Biden on Thursday declared a major disaster in Florida over the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, now a tropical storm.

The president ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in areas affected by the hurricane starting Sept. 23 and onward, the White House said.

"The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota," it said.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, as well as low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help residents and business owners recover from the impacts of Ian, the White House said.

It said federal funding was also available to state, tribal and eligible local governments, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations on a "cost-sharing basis for debris removal" in affected counties and for emergency protective measures statewide. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide, the White House said.


Harris says Biden administration fully committed to providing federal support to Florida

Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that images of Ian's destruction were devastating as she sought to offer reassurance that the Biden administration was fully committed to offering federal support to Florida.

Harris made the comments while in South Korea for a planned visit, Reuters reported. The vice president added that people should follow any evacuation orders.

The vice president also asked a soldier who was from Florida whether he had checked in on his family after Ian, The Associated Press reported.

“Yeah, they’re up on a hill,” he replied, according to AP.

Video captures heavy rains in Orlando after officials warn of 'catastrophic' floods

Video footage posted to social media and verified by NBC News shows heavy rain and flooding in Orlando on Wednesday evening, with palm trees swaying wildly in strong winds and rainwater streaming down a road.

"This flooding is actually picking up in Orlando," Twitter user @JaiHawkFly wrote, sharing the video online.

The National Weather Service in Melbourne had earlier warned that conditions would deteriorate overnight, saying in a statement on Twitter there was a threat of “significant to catastrophic flooding” Wednesday evening through Thursday for areas from N Osceola and N Brevard north, including metro Orlando.

“Flooding can be especially dangerous at night,” the service said in a statement on Twitter.

Flooded streets of Havana as Ian passes

A woman stands on a flooded street in Havana, on Sept. 28, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Ian. Yamil Lage / AFP - Getty Images

Hurricane Ian downgraded to tropical storm

Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday as it continued to batter Florida.

Maximum sustained winds dropped to near 65 mph with higher gusts early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said, but the storm has continued to cause destruction as it moves northeast.

Ian is “still expected to produce strong winds, heavy rains and storm surge across portions of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas,” it said.

Time-lapse shows floodwaters surging down roads in Fort Myers

A time-lapse of footage captured by a webcam run by the Florida Department of Transportation showed floodwaters surging down the roads of Fort Myers on Wednesday.

The video showed waters rising and turning a major road into a river.

The time-lapse was shared by NBC affiliate, WOOD-TV reporter Brennan Prill.

Debris lines the streets of Tampa

A pickup truck drives around fallen debris and palm trees in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa on Wednesday. Bryan R. Smith / AFP - Getty Images

More than 2.4 million without power across Florida

More than 2.4 million people across Florida were without power early Thursday morning after Hurricane Ian walloped the state, bringing 150 mph winds and life-threatening storm surge.

Residents along the state's southwest coast, where Ian made landfall Wednesday, were the hardest hit, according to online outage live tracker

Around half of those without power are in the region serviced by Florida Power & Light Co., whose coverage area includes the hard-hit communities of Lee County.

The company said in a tweet Wednesday night that Ian's catastrophic winds meant parts of its system would “need to be rebuilt — not restored" as it warned residents to be "prepared for widespread, extended outages."

"We are already at work restoring power where we can do so safely," it said.

'Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic' flooding expected to continue in central Florida

“Widespread, life-threatening catastrophic” flooding is expected to continue near major rivers in parts of central Florida on Thursday, the National Weather Service has warned.

Considerable flooding is also expected in the state's north, southeastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina, the agency said in a statement on Twitter.

Hurricane Ian winds drop further, flood risk remains

Hurricane Ian’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 75 mph by early Thursday, the day after it struck Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm.

But northeastern and central Florida were forecast to get 10 to 20 inches of rain, and up to 30 inches in some spots, the National Hurricane Center said. Florida’s eastern coast may also see a storm surge of 6 feet.

The storm, now a Category 1, was about 55 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral at 2 a.m., the hurricane center said in an advisory. It was moving northeast at 9 mph.

It did not appear that any deaths had been reported in the hurricane, but officials near where it struck earlier Wednesday said the damage was feared to be extensive and it was unknown how bad the situation was as high winds were continuing.