Ian downgraded to tropical storm, millions of Americans without power

Ian downgraded to tropical storm, millions of Americans without current


PUNTA GORDA | Ian, downgraded to a tropical storm, continued its destructive path towards South Carolina on Thursday after devastating the coasts of Florida, mostly still plunged into darkness, and causing catastrophic flooding. 

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced around 0500 (0900 GMT) that Ianhad weakened into a tropical storm capable of winds of up to 105 km/h, while stressing that the risk of “potentially deadly storm surges”, i.e. a rise in sea levels on the coast, would remain significant until 'through Friday along the coasts of Florida as well as the neighboring states of Georgia and South Carolina.

Slightly away from the hurricane's path, near the US archipelago of the Keys, poor conditions capsized a boat carrying migrants. The Coast Guard was looking for another 20 people, with three rescued and four others managing to swim to shore.

Ianhit the coast of Cayo Costa in southwest Florida at 3:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT) on Wednesday when it was still an “extremely dangerous” hurricane with winds of up to 240 km/h. It caused “catastrophic” flooding there, said the National Hurricane Center.

Faced with the extent of the damage, US President Joe Biden declared a state of major natural disaster on Thursday morning, a decision to release additional federal funds for the affected regions.

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Some 2.6 million homes or businesses were also still without power Thursday morning in Florida, out of a total of 11 million, mainly around the path of the hurricane, according to the specialized site PowerOutage.

< p>The town of Punta Gorda thus spent the night in darkness. Only a few buildings equipped with generators were able to remain lit, the only sounds around being the roar of the wind and the pouring rain.

The city had previously experienced a brief respite during the passage of the eye of the hurricane. But the squalls and rain returned with even greater force, toppling road signs and smashing roofs and tree limbs.

The Jacksonville airport announced it would close for the day Thursday, and those in Tampa and Orlando had ceased all commercial flights Wednesday night.

In Naples, MSNBC footage showed streets completely flooded and cars floating in the current.

< p>The Southwest Florida town's fire chief, Pete DiMara, told CNN that his fire station was suddenly flooded by up to two meters of water, preventing his crews from responding to calls. emergency.

This sudden rise in water “has certainly caused a lot of damage in the area,” he said, calling on residents to stay at home until firefighters can bring them to their homes. relief.

In Fort Myers, a city of more than 80,000 people, the flooding was so severe that some neighborhoods looked like lakes.

The flood sometimes exceeded three meters, the governor of the State, Ron DeSantis.

Ian is expected to emerge over the western Atlantic by the end of the day, according to the NHC, which forecasts further light reinforcement from Ian, who “could approach hurricane strength when it lands near the South Carolina coast on Friday.” 

< strong>Scaling Up

Ron DeSantis called it probably “one of the five strongest hurricanes to ever hit Florida.”

“This is a storm that will be talked about for many years to come,” said said the Director of the United States Weather Services (NWS), Ken Graham, during a press conference.

Some 3,200 members of the National Guard have been called to Florida, according to the Pentagon, and 1,800 more are on the way.

Hurricane Ianhad previously struck Cuba on Tuesday, killing two people and plunging the island into darkness. On Wednesday, power was restored to some residents of Havana and 11 other provinces, but not to the three most affected in the west of the country.

As the surface of the oceans warms, the frequency of the most intense hurricanes, with stronger winds and heavier precipitation, is increasing, but not the total number of hurricanes.

According to Gary Lackmann, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of State of North Carolina, United States, several studies have demonstrated a “possible link” between climate change and a phenomenon known as “rapid intensification” — when a relatively weak tropical storm strengthens into a hurricane of category 3 or more in the space of 24 hours, as was the case with Ian.

“A consensus remains that there will be fewer storms in the future, but that the most significant will be more intense,” the scientist told AFP.