Some flew by helicopter and people described the horror of being trapped in their homes as the water continued to rise.
“The water kept pounding against the house and we watched, boats, houses – we just saw everything fly by,” said Joe Conforti, fighting back tears. He said that if it had not been for his wife, who suggested standing on a table to avoid the rising water, he would not have made it: “I began to lose my sensitivity, because when the water in front of you door and it splashes on the door and you see how fast it goes, you’re never going to survive that.”
River flooding sometimes presented a major challenge in rescuing and delivering supply efforts. The Myakka River washed over a stretch of Interstate 75, shutting traffic for a while before officials said it could be reopened later Saturday.
Although swollen rivers have peaked or are nearing their peak, levels are not expected to drop significantly in the coming days, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Fleming.
Elsewhere, South Carolina’s Pawleys Island, a beach community about 115 miles off the coast from Charleston, was also hard hit. Power remained off to at least half of the island on Saturday.
Eddie Wilder, who has been coming to Pawleys Island for more than six decades, said it was “insane” to see waves as high as 7.6 meters wash off a landmark pier near his home.
“We saw it hit the pier and saw the pier disappear,” he said. “We saw it crumble and saw it float by with an American flag.”
Wilder’s house, 9 meters above the shoreline, remained dry inside.
In North Carolina, the storm has brought down trees and power lines. Two of the four deaths in the state resulted from storm-related vehicle accidents, and the others involved a man who drowned when his truck plunged into a swamp and another who was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator in a garage.
At Port Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers, Florida, the storm surge pushed several boats and a dock ashore. Charter captain Ryan Kane said his ship was so badly damaged he couldn’t use it to save people, and it will now be a long time before he can get customers fishing again.
“There’s a hole in the hull. Water got into the engines. There was water in everything,” he said, adding: “You know, boats are supposed to be in the water, not in parking lots.”