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Dangers Persist in Hurricane Ian's Wake

FILE - A destroyed marina in the Matanzas Pass is seen after Hurricane Ian caused widespread destruction in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, U.S., October 1, 2022.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power after days after Hurricane Ian carved a path of destruction, killing at least 68 people mostly in the U.S. state of Florida.

National Guard helicopters are flying rescue missions to residents still stranded on in Florida’s barrier islands. The road to recovery from the monster storm is expected to be long and painful.

In Florida, 61 people have been confirmed dead with four dead in North Carolina and three in Cuba.

The storm doused Virginia with rain Sunday, and officials warned of the potential for major flooding along its coast, with a coastal flood warning in effect Monday.

Ian's remnants moved offshore and formed a nor’easter that is expected to pile even more water into an already inundated Chesapeake Bay and threatened to cause the most significant tidal flooding event in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region in the last 10 to 15 years, said Cody Poche, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Norfolk and Virginia Beach declared states of emergency.

Other portions of the Atlantic coast could see higher tides than usual. The island town of Chincoteague in Virginia declared a state of emergency Sunday and strongly recommended that residents in certain areas evacuate. The Eastern Shore and northern portion of North Carolina’s Outer Banks were also likely to be impacted.

In Florida, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy told NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday that the search and rescue mission would be taking place for the next couple of days. Murphy said that was why residents who evacuated are largely being kept away from their homes.

With the death toll rising, Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a huge way, focusing first on victims in Florida. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit the state on Wednesday.

Flooded roadways and washed-out bridges to barrier islands left many people isolated amid limited cellphone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and the internet. Officials warned that the situation in many areas isn’t expected to improve for several days because the rain that fell has nowhere to go because waterways are overflowing.

About 600,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity on Monday morning, down from a peak of 2.6 million.

The current goal is to restore power by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said Monday. It does not include homes or areas where infrastructure needs to be rebuilt.

More than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide, according to Florida’s emergency management agency.

Rescue missions were ongoing, especially to barrier islands near Fort Myers in southwest Florida that were cut off from the mainland when storm surges destroyed causeways and bridges.

The state will build a temporary traffic passageway for the largest one, Pine Island, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday, adding that an allocation had been approved for Deportment of Transportation to build it this week and construction could start as soon as Monday.

Coast Guard, municipal and private crews have been using helicopters, boats and even jetskis to evacuate people over the past several days.

In rural Seminole County, north of Orlando, residents donned waders, boots and bug spray to paddle to their flooded homes Sunday.

Ben Bertat found 4 inches (10 centimeters) of water in his house by Lake Harney after kayaking there.

“I think it’s going to get worse because all of this water has to get to the lake” said Bertat, pointing to the water flooding a nearby road. “With ground saturation, all this swamp is full and it just can’t take any more water. It doesn’t look like it’s getting any lower.”