Editor's Note: As a public service, the Greenville News, Spartanburg Herald-Journal and Anderson Independent Mail are making storm coverage free to readers as long as the region is threatened. To help us continue keeping you informed, please consider supporting us with a digital subscription.
The death toll was rising and residents desperately sought rescue Thursday as historically powerful Hurricane Ian, now a tropical storm, hammered Florida with heavy rain and strong winds, one of the strongest systems in U.S. history.
Gov. Ron DeSantis described the storm as "500-year flooding event" and said communities across the state were or will be swamped by the overwhelming waters.
"The impacts of this storm are historic and the damage that has been done is historic," DeSantis said. "We've never seen a flood event like this, we've never seen a storm surge of this magnitude."
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on CNN that at least five deaths have been confirmed in his county. And a 72-year-old man in Deltona died after fallinnto a canal while using a hose to drain his pool in the heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
"I definitely know the fatalities are in the hundreds," Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America." "There are thousands of people that are waiting to be rescued."
More than 2.5 Florida million homes and business were without power early Thursday. Ian had weakened to a tropical storm but was forecast to continue roaring across the state most of the day before heading out into the Atlantic.
Hurricane Ian impact on South Carolina: Wednesday update
Gov. Henry McMaster declared a State of Emergency for South Carolina Wednesday afternoon.
This lifts some state regulations and allows the state to draw down federal disaster funds. The SC National Guard has been activated.
McMaster did not issue any mandatory evacuations or government building closures. He also said school closures would be up to individual districts.
The remnants of Hurricane Ian are expected to approach Upstate South Carolina Friday into Saturday. Severe wind and heavy rain conditions are expected.
There is still uncertainty about the hurricane's exact path.
The storm will make landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast Wednesday afternoon. It is expected the storm will make a second landfall between Savannah and Charleston Friday night.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Lowcountry’s counties. The South Carolina coast will see storm surges in addition to heavy rain and wind gusts.
According to AccuWeather, the hurricane impacts in the Upstate could begin as soon as 10 a.m. Friday.
Rainfall could reach 4 to 8 inches across the Upstate. Peaked sustained winds are expected to be 31 mph and peak wind gusts are expected to be 56 mph.
Meteorologist with National Weather Service, Trisha Palmer, says we will experience the remnants of the end of the storm.
"It will be falling apart during the day on Saturday," Palmer said. "What we have in advance of Ian is a wedge of cool, high pressure. What this means is a cool, blustery day. Temperatures will be cool on Friday and quite breezy. We could have gustier winds."
Spartanburg County's Director of Office of Emergency Services, Doug Bryson, said the storm's current track, as of Wednesday, would keep the Upstate's conditions free of a major weather event.
"From the Upstate, the track of the hurricane is moving eastward which is good for us," Bryson said. "It puts us on the west side of the storm, which is usually the less intense part of the storm. We are anticipating heavy rain and high winds, but nothing too catastrophic."
Bryson tells residents to be prepared by having nonperishable food, flashlights, and batteries and to expect power outages.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster held a live, media briefing with the state emergency management officials Tuesday afternoon.
"We are fully prepared for whatever comes," McMaster said. "We will be making announcements as necessary and we would urge everyone to get information from official sources. We know we are going to have a lot of water, a lot of wind and we know we are going to experience some rough weather."
- USA Today's John Bacon contributed to this story.
- This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
This article originally appeared on Herald-Journal: Hurricane Ian update: What SC can expect as storm makes landfall