Hurricane Update: South Carolina Braces for Ian Landfall as Florida, Cuba, and Puerto Rico Recoveries Continue
South Carolina is preparing for Hurricane Ian to make landfall again on Friday after wreaking havoc and causing widespread flooding in Florida.
The Charleston, South Carolina, airport closed its runways early Friday morning, business owners closed stores, and residents made final preparations for the storm, now a Category 2 hurricane, expected to strike the coast of the U.S. state in the afternoon.
“The re-energized storm is expected to hit South Carolina in the afternoon, most likely between Charleston and Georgetown,” The Post and Courier reports. “Its huge spiraling arms are expected to bring 80- to 90-mph winds. A 4- to 7-foot surge could flood vast swaths of the Lowcountry, depending on the storm’s timing and the tides. Ferocious downpours from its ocean-fed bands may bring up to a foot of rain in some areas.”
As of 8:00 a.m. local time Friday morning, more than 25,000 South Carolinians were without power. The governor, Henry McMaster, has declared a state of emergency, but no evacuation orders have been issued. Instead, residents in the low-lying areas are being encouraged to relocate during the storm.
For news alerts and life safety resources, visit the National Hurricane Center's Hurricane Ian page, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hurricane Preparedness page, and the Associated Press's Hurricane Ian live updates page.
In Florida, rescue operations are underway to locate individuals who were displaced during the storm or have been reported missing. Hurricane Ian made landfall on the U.S. state’s southwest coast on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm, causing widespread destruction with high storm surge and ferocious winds.
Ian hit some of Florida’s barrier island cities—including Fort Myers Beach—hardest before dropping nearly 20 inches of rain in some parts of the peninsula as it moved through the area. Orlando officials and Osceola County first responders were conducting rescue missions to help residents evacuate highly flooded areas.
Officials have not released a confirmed death toll, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he expected to learn of storm-related fatalities in the coming days as first responders continue rescue efforts.
“The damage that was done has been historic,” said DeSantis in a press briefing. “We’ve never seen a flood event like this. We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude.”
Additionally, insurance experts estimate that the losses from Hurricane Ian will put increasing pressure on Floridians and its business market. A Fitch Ratings analysis obtained by The Washington Post estimated insured losses ranging from $25 billion to $40 billion from Hurricane Ian.
“A unique confluence of factors makes Florida an exceptionally difficult place for private insurers to do business, and for homeowners to find affordable comprehensive plans from private companies,” according to the Post. “As Ian has shown, the state is susceptible to dangerous weather events, something that’s likely to increase over time because of climate change. Insurance companies’ risk models, which incorporate thousands of years of weather data, have proved unreliable when it comes to the most recent storms, said Danielle Lombardo, chair of the Global Real Estate Practice at Lockton, an independent insurance brokerage and consultancy.”
A recent study found that climate change likely added at least 10 percent more rain to Hurricane Ian, based on peak rainfall rates during the storm compared to 20 computer scenarios of a model of the storm in a world without human-caused climate change, the Associated Press reports.
Most of Cuba remains without power after Hurricane Ian struck the island nation on Wednesday as a Category 3 storm; Internet and cellphone service have also been disrupted.
“Electricity returned in some parts of Cuba on Wednesday, while it came on then shut off again in other parts,” according to the AP. “Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid and warned that it will require time and resources—things the country doesn’t have—to fix the problem.”
The delay in power restoration led to some small protests in Havana this week as residents and officials continue to assess the scale of the damage. NPR reports that tens of thousands of people were evacuated or fled the Pinar del Río province—which took the brunt of the storm—before the hurricane made landfall. The storm, however, still caused widespread flooding, and damage to buildings, houses, and trees.
“It was apocalyptic, a real disaster,” said Hirochi Robaina, who owns a tobacco farm in the province.
Puerto Ricans are continuing recovery efforts after Hurricane Fiona hit the island on 18 September as a Category 1 storm, ultimately dropping more than 30 inches of rain on the island and causing significant damage. Thousands of residents are still without power or water because Fiona damaged 50 percent of the U.S. territory’s transmission lines and distribution feeders.
“Luma, a private company that operates transmission and distribution of power in Puerto Rico, has promised that electricity would be restored to 90 percent of clients by Friday in areas not severely affected by the storm,” according to The Washington Post. “In hard-hit areas, officials have said they might restore power to 90 percent of clients by next Tuesday.”
The delay in return to essential services has prompted the step of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas waiving the Jones Act to allow a British Petroleum ship to dock in Puerto Rico and unload 300,000 barrels of diesel. The U.S. government took this step in 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
“In response to urgent and immediate needs of the Puerto Rican people in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, I have approved a temporary and targeted Jones Act waiver to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning of critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona,” Mayorkas said in a statement.
To help security practitioners plan for and respond to natural disasters, ASIS International has put together a list of resources—including Security Management content, on-demand webinars, and video interviews with event recovery experts. Find the full resource list here.