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Lapid sends ‘thoughts and prayers’ to Florida as hurricane aims at Carolinas

Rescue crews wading through floodwaters in Florida in effort to rescue people trapped in homes; eastern seaboard braces for storms and flooding as second Ian landfall looms

Damaged homes and businesses are seen after Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, September 29, 2022, (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Damaged homes and businesses are seen after Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, September 29, 2022, (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid extended his support to the people of Florida on Friday, after Hurricane Ian left a trail of destruction as it passed through the southern US state, and began to make its way to South Carolina.

“The thoughts and prayers of all Israelis are with the people of Florida, and all those who remain in the path of this devastating storm,” Lapid tweeted. “Sending strength to my friends President Joe Biden and Governor Ron De Santis, and all those involved in responding to this tragedy.”

At least six people have been killed in Florida since the monstrous Category 4 hurricane came ashore on Florida’s Gulf Coast Wednesday, flooding cities, blowing down power lines, cutting electricity to millions and dumping catastrophic amounts of rain on the state before moving back offshore.

Climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian, according to a study prepared immediately after the storm, said its co-author, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab climate scientist Michael Wehner.

Biden has said it could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.

Tens of thousands of Israelis are thought to live in Florida, which is also home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the US.

On Thursday, rescue crews piloted boats and waded through riverine streets to save thousands of Floridians trapped amid flooded homes and buildings shattered by Hurricane Ian.

A man walks through a street among damaged homes and businesses and debris following Hurricane Ian, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, September 29, 2022. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would hit South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane Friday.

National Guard troops were being positioned in South Carolina to help with the aftermath, including any water rescues. And in Washington, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state, a needed step to speed federal assistance for recovery once Ian passes.

On Friday morning in Charleston, powerful wind gusts bent tree branches and sent sprays of steadily falling rain sideways. Streets in the 350-year-old city were largely empty, an ordinarily packed morning commute silenced by the advancing storm.

With winds holding at 85 mph (140 kph), the National Hurricane Center’s update at 8 a.m. Friday placed Ian about 105 miles (175 km) southeast of Charleston and forecast a “life-threatening storm surge” and hurricane conditions along the Carolina coastal area later Friday.

The hurricane warning stretched from the Savannah River to Cape Fear, with flooding likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia, the center said. The forecast predicted a storm surge of up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) into coastal areas of the Carolinas, and rainfall of up to 8 inches (20 centimeters).

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for torrents of rain, high winds, and potential power outages.

Visiting the state’s emergency operations center Thursday, Cooper said that up to 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas, with the potential for mountain landslides and tornadoes statewide.

With all of South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, many likely heeding officials’ warnings to seek higher ground. Storefronts were sandbagged to ward off high water levels in an area prone to inundation.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, were conducted on Thursday involving the US Coast Guard, the National Guard, and urban search-and-rescue teams.

In the Fort Myers area, the hurricane ripped homes from their slabs and deposited them among shredded wreckage. Businesses near the beach were completely razed, leaving twisted debris. Broken docks floated at odd angles beside damaged boats. Fires smoldered on lots where houses once stood.

“I don’t know how anyone could have survived in there,” William Goodison said amid the wreckage of a mobile home park in Fort Myers Beach where he’d lived for 11 years. Goodison said he was alive only because he rode out the storm at his son’s house inland.

Damaged structures are seen in the wake of Hurricane Ian, September 29, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. (AP/Wilfredo Lee)

The road into Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers, and other debris. Cars were left abandoned on the road, having stalled when the storm surge flooded their engines.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his office was scrambling to respond to thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges were impassable.

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