Historic downtown Charleston sees flooding, downed trees from Hurricane Ian

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Hurricane Ian made landfall in Georgetown, South Carolina Friday afternoon, just north of Charleston.

In the town’s historic downtown, Channel 9 Reporter Jonathan Lowe could see the storm was already having a major impact by noon on Friday. At around 10:30 a.m., Lowe could see the water slowly rise near the open-air market. Strong wind pushed that water further and further into downtown.

By the time the eye wall made landfall just after 2 p.m., Lowe said rain and wind had picked up, leading to downed trees and power lines.

Emergency responders were even forced to temporarily suspend their operations when a band of heavy wind and rain whipped through. Lowe said it was just too unsafe for anyone to be on the road.

As of 4 p.m., emergency responders have resumed operations.

In addition to trees and branches coming down, winds have started to rip up nearby roofs. The owners of one hotel said they were able to evacuate the guests from a hotel following damage to the building.

“They just came up and there was five of us in the lobby. They came up and said, ‘We’re going have to evacuate you over to the Embassy Suites, it’s our sister hotel. ‘Everything was fine. They got us over here, they brought cars up, loaded everything up, brought us over here. I mean, they couldn’t be any nicer,” said Skip Yeomans, who was visiting from Mississippi.

Friday morning, most businesses were boarded up and had sandbags at their entrances. Many were closed for the day, but that was not the case for Pizzeria di Giovanni.

Owner Giovanni Radeglia and his son kept their restaurant open Friday for people who might get hungry and be unable to find food. Although the floodwaters had started creeping closer, he said he still delivers through his back entrance, which sits at higher ground.

By living in Charleston for 30 years and having his business for 18, he knows the precautions to take -- including putting all the restaurant furniture up high and being ready to fend off the floodwaters as much as possible.

“We should a get a foot or two or higher, it should be running in here about noon,” he said. “I’ve already lifted up the furniture like I do, cause I’ve been through this so many times. You have to look at everything that’s about knee-high and you just lift it. Take cinder blocks, carjacks -- if you take carjacks, you can lift up anything.”

The tide came in about 20 minutes before noon. Meteorologists are forecasting a storm surge of 4 to 7 feet high.

Officials have not shared any details regarding injuries from the storm at this point.

Interactive map of coastal conditions below:

Ahead of Hurricane Ian, SC coast prepares for strong winds, storm surge

Emergency officials along the South Carolina coast are preparing for the storm surge Friday, as winds from Hurricane Ian start to push the water inland.

Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe arrived in Charleston County Thursday, where locals said they were expecting the downtown area to see severe flooding, especially during the high tide periods overnight and Friday morning.

Resident Tommy Brooks was seen, along with his neighbors, boarding up his windows on the home he moved in just two years ago.

“I wasn’t going to do anything, but with these boards being here, I would be crazy not to spend the time to put those up. But with 75 mph winds, if that’s what it turns out to be, I think we’re OK,” Brooks said.

Charleston’s mayor declared a state of emergency for the area Thursday morning in anticipation of impacts from the storm.

As many as 8 inches of rain are predicted for the Charleston area. As of Thursday evening, Lowe said winds have already started to pick up.

Two shelters were opened in the county for evacuees. Five parking garages were also open for people to move their vehicles to higher grounds.

Lowe said 15,000 sandbags have been distributed to residents and business owners hoping to fend off the floodwaters.

>> As Hurricane Ian hurtles toward the coast, Lowe will be on the ground tracking any developments. Watch Eyewitness News to stay updated on the latest.