SAVANNAH, Ga. - After spending over a day battering much of Florida, Hurricane Ian now has its eye set on the South Carolina coast.
Ian, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm, regained strength in the Atlantic Ocean, turning into in a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds. The National Hurricane Center’s update at 5 a.m. Friday placed Ian about 145 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina and forecast a "life-threatening storm surge" and hurricane conditions along the Carolina coastal area later Friday.
In Georgia, the state's coastal counties are finalizing preparations to react to any severe weather the storm brings to the area.
While the latest tracks show the state may avoid worst-case scenarios that were projected earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said they are still planning for flooding and heavy wind.
"Thankfully we've been very luck overnight that the storm continues to move out eastward," Kemp said at a news conference in Savannah Thursday.
Kemp said the Savannah airport and port remained open. The port would operate at least until Thursday night. He said he planned to meet with the Coast Guard regarding the status of the port and how long it could remain operational.
Kemp asked Georgians to keep Floridians devastated by Hurricane Ian in their thoughts and prayers. He said there is still hotel capacity for Floridians seeking refuge in Georgia. More information is available at Explore Georgia's Hurricane Alert page..
Ian had come ashore Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. It flooded homes on both the state’s coasts, cut off the only road access to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier and knocked out electricity to 2.6 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers. Some 2.1 million of those customers remained in the dark days afterward.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, were conducted on Thursday involving the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search-and-rescue teams.
At least four people were confirmed dead in Florida, while three other people were reported killed in Cuba after the hurricane struck there on Tuesday.
A car sits in floodwater after Hurricane Ian in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
National Guard troops were being positioned in South Carolina to help with the aftermath, including any water rescues. And in Washington, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for the state, a needed step to speed federal assist for recovery once Ian passes.
The storm was on track to later hit North Carolina, forecasters said. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urged residents to prepare for torrents of rain, high winds and potential power outages.
Visiting the state’s emergency operations center Thursday, Cooper said that up to 7 inches (17.8 centimeters) of rain could fall in some areas, with the potential for mountain landslides and tornadoes statewide.
FOX 5 Atlanta will be live with the latest this week from Coastal Georgia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.