Miami, Sep 29 (EFE).- United States president Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration in Florida to unlock federal recovery funds after the passing of Hurricane Ian, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall as a category 4 storm and moving into the center of the state on Wednesday night.
The storm, which has caused major damage in Cuba and southwest Florida, still threatens to produce strong winds and cause “catastrophic flooding” along Florida’s eastern coast, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, according to the United States National Hurricanes Center (NHC).
Biden’s statement came as Florida governor Ron Desantis told a Tallahassee news conference that there were unconfirmed reports of two deaths linked to the hurricane.
On Thursday morning, after passing through Orlando, Hurricane Ian moved close to Cape Canaveral, where the Kennedy Space Center is located, and was moving northeast with maximum sustained wind speeds of 100 kph (roughly 62 mph).
The destruction on the Floridan Gulf of Mexico coast is yet to be calculated, but TV images show that the touristic area was significantly damaged.
The warnings issued by the NHC for the southwest coast remained in effect Thursday morning, after the area was hit with 240 km/h speed winds, but they now include other regions of the east coast of the country as the storm continues making its way northeast.
Ian is forecast to weaken more on Friday night after it moves inland but it could still cause storm surges that would raise sea levels up to 1.8 meters (roughly 6 feet) in some areas of the west coast of Florida.
The storm’s heavy rainfalls are to reach the state of Virginia and potentially cause floods in urban areas and prompt rivers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to burst their banks.
The NHC has also issued a warning of potential tornadoes forming Thursday morning through the center and northeast of Florida and in both Carolinas on Friday.
Sea surges from the storm are affecting the north coast of Cuba, northeast coast of Yucatan, Mexico, and the west coast of Florida. EFE