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'A 500-Year Flood Event': One of Worst Hurricanes to Ever Strike FL, Ian to Strengthen and Slam SC Next

This aerial photo shows damaged homes and debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Hurricane Ian will be remembered as one of the worst storms to ever hit the state of Florida with houses and cars floating away, along with storm surges of 12 to 18 feet. And unfortunately, it's not done unleashing destruction against the United States yet. 

While Ian is temporarily moving out to sea, East Coast states from Georgia up to Virginia have declared emergencies as the storm is expected to regain strength before making landfall again over the next couple of days, pounding the coast with rain and high winds.  

On Thursday, President Joe Biden informed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that he approved a Florida disaster declaration that makes federal funds available to nine counties decimated by the hurricane. 

DeSantis said he's grateful, and also predicts the number of counties needing federal assistance will grow in the days to come.

"The amount of water that's been rising and will continue to rise today even as the storm is passing is basically a 500-year flood event," the governor said.  

Hurricane Ian marks the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the American mainland. At least 2.5 million Floridians are without power. It's a number that DeSantis expects to rise. 

"People should understand this storm is having broad impacts across the state and some of the flooding you're going to see hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records," he said.  

With search and rescue missions underway in southwest Florida, the governor urged residents who've evacuated to wait before returning to keep roadways clear for first responders.

Those who stayed to ride out the storm witnessed dangerous flooding, sharks swimming in the streets, doors buckling under water pressure, and large boats floating away pushed by the wind.

Video posted to social media showed entire homes being swept away by floodwaters too. 

"That house halfway under water. There goes my car floating away," one person said. 

Firefighters worked to salvage supplies when the Naples Fire station became inundated with over three feet of water.

Under Florida's disaster declaration, the federal government will help cover costs to rebuild public buildings like schools and fire stations, and costs of clearing debris.

"This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida's history," Biden said. 

He claimed Thursday that while exact numbers are unclear, early reports indicate a substantial loss of life.

"My message to the people of Florida and the country is that, in times like this, America comes together. We're going to pull together as one team and as one America," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to provide everything they need."

So far, authorities have confirmed at least 13 deaths so far, six in Charlotte County, six in Lee County and one in Volusia County. 

In the coming days, more states might be seeking the federal government's help, like South Carolina which is now on a hurricane watch with the storm projected to make landfall there as a Category 1 by Friday. 

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