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    SANTEE — Citing “a tremendous job” in training and updated equipment, Santee Fire Chief Edward Barnett Jr. said his department has been able to improve its overall ISO rating from a Class 9 to a Class 4.

    Rescuers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other states and counties were racing against the clock as the sun was about to set Thursday in North Port, to help families stranded in their own homes surrounded by streets that had turned into canals. The city was one of many in Florida where rescues were underway as Hurricane Ian continued churning northward toward Georgia and the Carolinas. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday evening there had been 700 confirmed rescues across the state in the wake of the storm. “Some of the damage was almost indescribable,” he said.

    Rescue crews are wading through water and using boats to rescue Florida residents stranded in the wake of Hurricane Ian. The Orange County fire department posted photos Thursday of crews in a flooded neighborhood in the Orlando area. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the U.S. Coast Guard began rescue operations hours before daybreak. At least one person in Florida was confirmed dead on the state's eastern coast. Flooding rains continued falling even after Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm. It's center finished crossing the Florida peninsula Thursday and emerged in the Atlantic Ocean. Forecasters predicted it would return to hurricane strength and turn north toward South Carolina.

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