Hurricane Ian clean-up efforts are underway after a severe storm left US areas in rubble as dozens died

Florida residents are struggling with major flooding and will likely continue to do so for days to come as they try to recover from deadly Hurricane Ian, which is expected to be the costliest storm in state history.

At least 66 people are believed to have died because of Ian in Florida alone, and four people were killed in storm-related incidents in North Carolina, officials say.

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Ian also turned off power to hundreds of thousands in the Carolinas Friday through early Saturday.

The greatest impact remains in Florida, where river flooding could continue well into next week, weather forecasters warn.

In Arcadia, western Florida — dozens of miles inland — river floods Saturday still blanketed part of the city like a lake, rendering a state highway invisible and swallowing everything but the roof of a gas station, a CNN crew saw there.

Near Sarasota, a possible dam burst forced officials to evacuate a neighborhood early Saturday over flooding concerns.

In hard-hit Fort Myers, where the storm surge has engulfed vehicles and the first floors of many homes, Rob Guarino is hosting friends who have lost everything in his high-rise apartment.

“A few of them are staying with me now. They just have nowhere to go,” Guarino told CNN.

People walk through the destruction on Fort Myers Beach in Florida after Hurricane Ian. Recognition: Getty Images

On Saturday night, Ian was a post-tropical cyclone that continued to weaken in southern Virginia, dropping several inches of rain over parts of West Virginia and western Maryland through Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.

On Wednesday, a Category 4 hurricane Ian struck southwest Florida, destroying coastal homes and leaving residents with flooding, particularly in the Fort Myers and Naples areas. It pushed inland through Thursday, bringing strong winds and damaging flooding to central and northeastern areas.

The hurricane then made landfall in South Carolina Friday between Charleston and Myrtle Beach as a Category 1 storm, inundating homes and vehicles along the coast and eventually disrupting power to hundreds of thousands more in the Carolinas and Virginia.

Storm damage from Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Recognition: Getty Images

More than a million customers in Florida were still without power as of Saturday night, and more than 99,000 in North Carolina were without power, according to

In Fort Myers Beach, Florida, where a raging storm surge destroyed homes and left debris in their wake, shocked survivors come to terms with what they saw and mourn those they lost.

Kevin Behen, who survived the storm on the second floor of a Fort Myers Beach building, told CNN Friday night he was aware of two men who died while allowing their wives to flee a home that had begun to flood .

“These guys pushed their wives out the windows into a tree,” Behen said.

“They just looked at their wives and said, ‘We can’t take this anymore. We love you. Bye’, and that’s it.”

Brian Siebert gets emotional looking at the remains of his home after Hurricane Ian hit his area. Recognition: Joe Radle/Getty Images
Workers clear sand from roads deposited during Hurricane Ian at Garden City Beach, South Carolina. Recognition: Scott Olson/Getty Images

About 90 percent of the island “is pretty much gone,” said Fort Myers Beach City Councilman Dan Allers.

“Unless you have a high-rise apartment or a newer concrete house built to the same standards today, your house is as good as gone.”

“I’ve been in this community since the mid ’70s, I’ve been in the police force for 25 years, worked in a lot of storms, this is by far the worst I’ve seen,” said Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson CNN’.

“As tough as this storm is, people are in good spirits and determined not to let it get them down,” the mayor added.

Members of the Indiana Task Force 1 search and rescue team search for people in need of assistance after Hurricane Ian passed Fort Myers, Florida. Recognition: Joe Radle/Getty Images

The islands of Sanibel and Captiva, meanwhile, were cut off from the mainland after parts of a causeway were destroyed by the storm.

Those living in west Florida’s Charlotte County “are facing tragedy” without homes, electricity or water, said Claudette Smith, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

“We need everything, to put it simply. we need everything We need all hands on deck,” Smith said.

“The people who came to our aid have been tremendously helpful, but we need everything.”

Further south, in Naples, Brandon and Dylan Barlow cleaned out their grandfather’s flooded home.

A man stands in the remains of a home and waves the American flag amid debris left behind on Matlacha Island after Hurricane Ian. Recognition: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Dylan, who lives nearby, recalled watching the storm from his own home and noting that a channel at her grandfather’s was rising too fast for her comfort.

“I didn’t ask him if we could pick him up; I told him we’d pick him up,” he said.

“So we took the car. We got to his house and when we got him out of the house there was already about 60 cm of water.

“And we went back into the water, and it was very close, but we got him out of there and brought him back safely to my mother’s house.”

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7News cameraman helps fleeing Florida residents during Hurricane Ian Live Cross.

7News cameraman helps fleeing Florida residents during Hurricane Ian Live Cross.

At least 66 deaths suspected to be linked to Ian have been reported in Florida, including about 35 in Lee County, according to the local sheriff.

The toll also includes 12 in Charlotte County, eight in Collier County, five in Volusia County, three in Sarasota County, one in Polk County, one in Lake County, one in Manatee County, officials said.

From the shores of Florida to inland cities like Orlando, dangerous flooding has left locals in dire straits.

In Fort Myers, buildings were swept off the beach. Recognition: AP

In an Orlando neighborhood where deep water blanketed the streets, some residents came by boat to help others.

The US Coast Guard has rescued more than 275 people in Florida, according to the rear admiral.

Brendan McPherson, and hundreds of other rescues have been performed by teams from FEMA, local and state agencies. But post-storm conditions remain a major challenge, he said.

“We fly and operate in areas that are not recognizable. There are no street signs. You don’t look the same as you used to. Buildings that were once community benchmarks no longer exist,” he said.

And in west Florida, concerns about a possible levee breach forced sheriff’s officers Saturday to go door-to-door in the Sarasota-area Hidden River community to warn residents of possible flooding there, the sheriff’s office said.

Doctor Karen Calkins tends to Mona Guibord, 94, as she waits to be evacuated from Pine Island, Florida. Recognition: Gerhard Herbert/AP

The problem could cause flooding problems for about 70 homes on the east side of the Hidden River neighborhood, the sheriff’s office later added, encouraging those residents to consider evacuation.

South of Hidden River, about 150 more people had to be evacuated because of water ingress in the town of North Port, which already had thousands of flooded homes, Fire Chief Scott Titus said.

Four storm-related deaths were reported in North Carolina through Saturday afternoon, the governor’s office said, including a man who drowned when his truck drove into a flooded swamp.

National Guard soldiers rescue a man from his flooded property in Geneva, Florida. Recognition: Stephen M Dowell/AP

Two people died in separate accidents and one man died of carbon monoxide poisoning after operating a generator in a closed garage, the governor’s office said.

No deaths were reported in South Carolina, the governor there said.

The storm has flooded homes and submerged vehicles along the South Carolina coast. Two piers — one on Pawleys Island and one in North Myrtle Beach — partially collapsed as strong winds pushed the water even higher.

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Weather Warning: Prepare for heavy rains. Hurricane Ian clean-up efforts are underway after a severe storm left US areas in rubble as dozens died

James Brien

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