Florida begins long recovery as death toll from Hurricane Ian rises

The storm caused widespread destruction in several counties. Hurricane Ian unleashed massive flooding and winds up to 150 mph, leveling some city blocks in hard-hit Fort Myers. A 14-mile stretch of Interstate 75 remained closed on Saturday in Sarasota County because of flooding from a nearby river.

More than 1.3 million homes and businesses remained without power on Saturday, though the number has gone down significantly from the 2.6 million who were without power during the height of the storm.

“We have a long way to go,” Eric Silagy, chair and CEO for Florida Power & Light, said on Saturday. Florida Power & Light is the biggest utility in the state.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in South Carolina on Friday near Georgetown, a city about 60 miles north of Charleston. Ian eventually weakened to a post-tropical cyclone as it moved north.

At least five hospitals along Florida’s Gulf Coast were evacuating patients in the aftermath of the storm, some of which were in locally-enforced evacuation areas. While many of the 200-plus hospitals in the state are battle-tested for hurricanes, Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary Mayhew stressed the difficulty of removing sick patients from facilities.

“It is incredibly disruptive to evacuate patients,” Mayhew said.

Arek Sarkissian contributed to this report.

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