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Hurricane Ian strengthening as it barrels towards Carolinas

Storms were already lashing the South Carolina coast early Friday as Ian is expected to slam into the Palmetto State as a Category 1 hurricane this afternoon — with forecasters warning of a “life-threatening storm surge.”

On Friday morning in the historic city of Charleston, powerful wind gusts bent tree branches and steady rainfall.

The mega storm is currently about 105 miles southeast of Charleston, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. ET advisory. It is packing powerful maximum sustained winds around 85 mph.

“The winds are holding steady at 85 mph,” Fox Weather meteorologist Steve Bender said.

Forecasters predict a storm surge of up to 7 feet into coastal areas of the Carolinas, and rainfall of up to 8 inches.

The re-energized storm is expected to hit somewhere between Charleston and Georgetown, but batter a huge area around them because of its terrifying size.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” the National Hurricane Center warned.

Meanwhile, more than 2 million in Florida are waking without power to survey the historic death and destruction left in its path.

While the worst of the storm had left Florida by Friday, “ongoing major to record river flooding will continue through next week” across parts of the Sunshine State, the advisory stressed.

The devastation across Florida — where Ian made landfall just shy of the maximum Category 5 storm with 150 mph winds — meant local rescue crews were still unable to reach those in need and tally the dead.

President Biden on Thursday warned that it “could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history.”

“We’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at least 700 rescues, mostly by air, were conducted on Thursday involving the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard and urban search-and-rescue teams.

He said “we fully expect to have mortality from this hurricane,” but cautioned against speculating on the likely number.

Early Friday, more than 2 million were without power in the Sunshine State, down from 2.6 million the previous day.

With all of South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, many likely heeding officials’ warnings to seek higher ground. Storefronts were sandbagged to ward off high water levels in an area prone to inundation.

“This is a dangerous storm that will bring high winds and a lot of water, but the most dangerous thing about it will be human error,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted.

“Be smart, make good decisions, check on your loved ones, and stay safe.”

In North Carolina, National Guard troops were already at the ready for rescue missions.

“This storm is dangerous. Make sure you’re prepared,” Gov. Ray Cooper said.

The National Weather Service warns that a Category 1 hurricane — one with winds between 74 mph and 95 mph — can damage roofs on even well-constructed homes as well as rip up trees and cause extensive power outages.

While Ian is expected to lose power after passing the Carolinas and Virginia, it will still bring heavy rainfall for much of the northeast throughout the weekend, including New York.

With Post wires

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