Hurricane Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday as it left Florida, only to become a hurricane again this evening en route to the Carolinas. Across Florida, the aftermath of the storm lingers long after the eye has passed, as more storm surges and flooding continue to threaten residents across the state.

“The amount of water that has increased and will likely continue to increase today, even as the storm passes, is essentially a 500-year flood,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Thursday morning briefing.

As of 11 a.m., the storm was 25 miles north-northeast of Cape Canaveral and 285 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, with peak winds that increased Thursday morning to 70 mph, down from from their peak of 155 mph on Wednesday. It was heading northeast at 9 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Ian is expected to move off the east coast of Florida later today Thursday, according to the latest advisory from the hurricane center. It will then track north overnight toward the South Carolina coast, which is expected to revert to a hurricane tonight and make landfall as a hurricane on Friday. A hurricane warning was issued for the entire South Carolina coast, and a storm surge warning was also issued for several parts of the state, with “rapid weakening” expected after landfall.

Meanwhile, rescue work for those trapped in flooded neighborhoods in Southwest Florida began Wednesday and continued Thursday as the sun rose, winds died down and the extent of the Ian’s destruction was beginning to reveal itself.

“As soon as this storm passed, local, state and federal first responders descended on southwest Florida,” DeSantis said Thursday.

DeSantis declined to speculate on the death toll Thursday morning, but said Lee County had received hundreds of calls for help from residents.

The Coast Guard and U.S. Army Reserve conducted rescue missions in the area, while on-site engineers began inspecting bridges. Some bridges, like the Pine Island Bridge, are no longer passable, DeSantis said. The storm ripped an entire section of the bridge to Sanibel Island.

Lee and Charlotte counties were virtually off the grid Thursday morning, with 2.2 million power outages reported so far. Returning to the grid may not happen overnight.

“Reconnections are going to have to be a rebuilding of that infrastructure,” DeSantis said. “It will be more than just connecting a power line to a pole.”

Ian had made landfall in mainland Florida at 4:35 p.m. Wednesday, just south of Punta Gorda, landing with winds of 145 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm had already made landfall on the island of Cayo Costa off Fort Myers.

A wind tower near Punta Gorda recorded sustained winds of 55 mph with a gust of 78 mph, the hurricane center said in a 9 p.m. update, while a Punta Gorda airport station measured a gust of 109 mph shortly before 8 p.m.

“This is going to be a storm we’ve been talking about for years to come,” Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service, said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Despite the attention paid to high winds, the biggest killer in hurricanes tends to be water. After submerging much of southwest Florida on Wednesday, Ian moved through central Florida overnight and Thursday, bringing heavy rains and flooding to the area.

Forecasters had predicted that central and northeast Florida could see between 12 and 18 inches of rain, with a maximum of 24 inches in some areas. while Northeast Florida will get between 6 and 10 inches with up to 1 foot in some areas.

Multiple flash flood emergencies were in effect Thursday morning as Ian moved through the east-central part of the state, including parts of Volusia County and the area around the Little Wekiva River.

In South Florida, much of the destruction occurred Tuesday night, when Ian spawned at least two tornadoes in Broward County and one in Palm Beach County, the National Weather Service said. A tornado near Kings Point near Delray Beach knocked down trees, destroyed cars, damaged apartments and displaced 35 people.

Experts expect tropical storm-force winds to subside in Palm Beach County Thursday afternoon and Thursday morning in Broward County.

Satellite images of Ian leaving Florida (National Hurricane Center)

Palm Beach County saw peak sustained winds of 50 to 60 mph starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday while Broward and Miami-Dade saw between 40 and 50 mph, according to the weather service report.

Florida Power & Light has deployed 16,000 crew members to nearly two dozen staging, parking and prepositioning sites across the state, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said Tuesday. They have already responded to more than 2 million storm band-triggered outages across the state as of Thursday morning.

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A new tropical depression formed Wednesday morning, but is far out in the Atlantic and expected to be short-lived, the hurricane center said.

The next named storm to form would be Julia.

Hurricane season ends on November 30.

Contributing editors Ron Hurtibise, David Lyons, Rafael Olmeda, Lois Solomon and Scott Travis contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press was also used.