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IN PHOTOS: Scenes of destruction following hurricane Ian’s landfall in Florida

Click to play video: 'Tropical Storm Ian bears down on Florida'
Tropical Storm Ian bears down on Florida
WATCH: Tropical Storm Ian bears down on Florida – Sep 29, 2022

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida Wednesday as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S., unleashing howling winds, torrential rains and a treacherous surge of ocean surf.

Early video images of the storm’s fury on local TV and social media showed flood waters sweeping away cars, nearly reaching rooftops in some communities and the ruins of homes as palm trees were bent almost in half.

Read more: ‘Historic’ hurricane Ian rips through Florida after making landfall on Gulf Coast

The Associated Press reported a day later that the storm flooded homes on both of the state’s coasts, cut off the only bridge to a barrier island, destroyed a historic waterfront pier, and knocked out electricity to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses. At least one man was confirmed dead as of Thursday.

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A section of the damaged Sanibel Causeway seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, near Sanibel Island, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee).
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In this aerial photo, damaged boats and debris are stacked along the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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Damaged homes and debris are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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A Coast Guard helicopter flies over damaged homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, on Sanibel Island, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee).

“This storm is doing a number on the state of Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis Wednesday, who asked U.S. President Joe Biden to approve a major federal disaster declaration providing a wide range of U.S. emergency aid to the entire state.

U.S. border authorities said 20 Cuban migrants were missing after their boat sank off the Florida coast as Ian neared the coast on Wednesday.

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Click to play video: 'Hurricane Ian: Biden approves Florida’s request for major disaster declaration'
Hurricane Ian: Biden approves Florida’s request for major disaster declaration

There were no immediate official reports of other storm-related casualties.

An unknown number of people were stranded in “high-risk” evacuation zones and in need of help after defying orders to seek higher ground, but rescue crews were unable to immediately reach them, the governor said.

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Authorities transport a person out of the Avante nursing home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux). (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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In this photo provided by Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office, firefighters in Orange County, Fla., help people stranded by Hurricane Ian early Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. (Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office via AP). (Orange County Fire Rescue's Public Information Office via AP)
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This image provided by the Naples Fire Rescue Department shows a firefighter carrying gear in water from the storm surge from Hurricane Ian on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 in Naples, Fla. (Naples Fire Department via AP). (Naples Fire Department via AP)

The storm’s peak wind speeds put it just shy of a Category 5 designation on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the maximum classification.

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Climate change is making hurricanes wetter, windier and more intense. There is also evidence that it is causing storms to travel more slowly, meaning they can dump more rain in one place, scientists say.

Read more: Hurricane Fiona shows how climate change is fuelling severe weather events in Canada: expert

“Hurricane Ian’s rapid intensification could prove to be another example of how a warming planet is changing hurricanes,” said Kait Parker, meteorologist and climate scientist at IBM’s weather.com.

“Research shows we are seeing this far more often than we did in decades past.”

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Ian devastates Southwest Florida'
Hurricane Ian devastates Southwest Florida

After weakening to a tropical storm over Florida, Ian was nearing hurricane strength again over the Atlantic Ocean. The coast of South Carolina was put under a hurricane warning.

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Ian’s top sustained winds grew to nearly 70 mph (110 km/h) at midday Thursday, just shy of hurricane force, with higher gusts.

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Jake Moses, 19, left, and Heather Jones, 18, of Fort Myers, explore a section of destroyed businesses at Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP).
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Remnants of damaged homes and flooded vehicles are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP).
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Homes, boats and docks lay in ruin in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP).
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Boats lay wrecked and piled up at Diversified Yacht Services in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP).
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Damages homes and businesses are seen in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on Thursday, Sep 29, 2022, following Hurricane Ian. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP).

– with files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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