The largely innocuous but soggy remnants of Hurri-cane Ian drifted through Virginia early on Sunday, leaving in their wake storm-ravaged residents in Florida and the Carolinas facing a disaster recovery expected to cost tens of billions of dollars.
The storm’s toll on human life also was expected to rise as floodwaters receded and search teams pushed farther into areas initially cut off from the outside world, seeking stranded survivors and the remains of anyone who may have perished.
At least 50 storm-related deaths have been con-firmed since Ian crashed ashore Florida’s Gulf Coast with catastrophic force on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 150 miles (240 km) per hour.
Florida accounted for the bulk of fatalities, with 35 tallied by the sheriff’s office in coastal Lee County, which bore the brunt of the storm when it made landfall, and 11 other deaths reported by state officials in four neighbouring counties.
North Carolina authorities said at least four more people had been killed there. No deaths were imme-diately reported in South Carolina, where Ian made its second US landfall on Friday.
Chugging over land since then, Ian has dimin-ished into an ever-weakening post-tropical cyclone, with the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) lifting all remaining watches and warnings related to the fading weather system by Saturday evening.
The NHC said heavy additional rainfall was possible across portions of West Virginia and west-ern Maryland into Sunday morning, even as “major to record flooding” was forecast to continue in central Florida.
As the full scope of devastation came into clearer focus days after Ian struck, officials said some of the heaviest damage was inflicted by raging wind-driven ocean surf that