PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Rescuers piloted boats and waded through flooded streets Thursday to rescue thousands of Floridians trapped among flooded homes and destroyed buildings left by Hurricane Ian as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean and headed for another outlet in land in South Carolina.

Hours after weakening as a tropical storm as it crossed the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday night after exiting the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would make landfall in South Carolina on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.

The devastation wreaked on Florida came into the spotlight a day after Ian made landfall as a devastating Category 4 hurricane and one of the strongest storms ever to hit the US. It flooded homes on both coasts of the state, closing the only bridge to the barrier island , destroying a historic waterfront pier and knocking out power to 2.67 million Florida homes and businesses — nearly a quarter of utility customers.

At least one person has been confirmed dead in Florida, and two more people have died in Cuba after a hurricane hit the island on Tuesday.

Aerial photos from the Fort Myers area, a few miles west of where Ian made landfall, showed homes ripped from their slabs and laid among the debris. Businesses near the beach were completely destroyed, leaving behind twisted wreckage. Broken docks floated at odd angles next to damaged boats, and fires smouldered in areas where houses once stood.

“I don’t know how anyone could survive there,” William Goodson said amid the wreckage of the Fort Myers Beach mobile home park where he lived for 11 years.

The hurricane tore through the park of about 60 homes, many of them, including Hudson’s one-bedroom home, destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Wading through waist-deep water, Hudson and his son carried two trash cans with what little he could salvage of his belongings — a portable air conditioner, some tools and a baseball bat.

The road into Fort Myers was littered with broken trees, boat trailers and other debris. The cars were left stranded on the road, stalled as the storm surge flooded their engines.

“We’ve never seen a storm surge of this magnitude,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news conference. “The amount of water that is rising and will likely continue to rise today, even as the storm passes, is basically a 500-year flood event.”

After the tropical storm left Florida and entered the Atlantic Ocean north of Cape Canaveral on Thursday, Ian re-strengthened into a hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph. The hurricane center predicted it would continue to strengthen before making landfall in South Carolina on Friday, but is still a Category 1 storm.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the coast of South Carolina and extended to Cape Fear on the southeastern coast of North Carolina. With tropical storm-force winds reaching 415 miles from the center, Ian is forecast to bring a 5-foot storm surge to coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas. Up to 8 inches of rain threatened flooding from South Carolina to Virginia.

Southwest Florida sheriffs said 911 centers were overwhelmed with thousands of callers, some of them life-threatening. The U.S. Coast Guard began rescue efforts in the hours before dawn on barrier islands near Yan’s impact site, DeSantis said. More than 800 members of federal urban search and rescue teams were also in the area.

In the Orlando area, Orange County firefighters used boats to reach people in the flooded area. A photo posted by the department on Twitter showed one firefighter carrying someone in his arms through knee-deep water. At the district nursing home, patients were carried on stretchers through the flood to a waiting bus.

Florida authorities have confirmed at least one death — a 72-year-old man in Delton who fell into a canal while using a hose to drain his pool during heavy rain, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said. Two more people died as a result of the storm in Cuba.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marcena said his office was struggling to respond to thousands of 911 calls in the Fort Myers area, but many roads and bridges were impassable.

“We still can’t get to a lot of people who are in need,” Marcheno said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Emergency crews were sawing downed trees to get to people who were trapped. Many of the worst-hit areas were unable to call for help due to power and cell service outages.