A resurgent Hurricane Ian slammed into the South Carolina coast on Friday afternoon, making another landfall after a deadly march across the Florida peninsula that washed away houses and stranded thousands along the state's Gulf Coast.
The now Category 1 storm swept ashore at 2:05 p.m. (18:05 GMT) near Georgetown, a waterfront town about 97 km north of the historic city of Charleston, packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 140 kph, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Ian was expected to bring life-threatening flooding, storm surges and winds to South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. Officials in all three states warned residents to prepare for dangerous conditions.
The hurricane came ashore on Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US mainland, transforming beach towns into disaster areas with catastrophic flooding and winds.
There have been reports of at least 21 deaths in Florida, Kevin Guthrie, director of the state's Division of Emergency Management, said at a morning briefing. He stressed that some of those reports remain unconfirmed.
Ian was forecast to weaken rapidly as it moves inland across the Carolinas and was expected to dissipate over western North Carolina or Virginia late on Saturday, the NHC said.
Georgetown, with a population of about 10,000, is a tourist destination known for its oak-lined streets and more than 50 sites on the National Registry of Historic Places. The town was heavily damaged by 1989's Hurricane Hugo.
Even before Ian's arrival, Charleston was seeing torrential rain. Video clips on social media showed several inches of water in some streets in the port city, which is especially prone to flooding.
A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90 percent of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.
“We are in the heart of it right now,” said Matt Storen, a police sergeant in Isle of Palms, a small beach community on a barrier island in South Carolina. “A lot of power outages, we are getting some downed trees.”
Prior to landfall, Storen said wind gusts were 97 kph and that some beach erosion had already occurred.
More than 145,000 homes and businesses in the Carolinas were without power, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.us.