Tropical Storm Ian continues to wallop Florida

Hundreds of dead were feared Thursday and thousands of Floridians desperately sought rescue

the historically powerful Hurricane Ian hit the state with heavy rain and strong winds, one of the strongest storms in US history.

The center of the hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 monster Wednesday afternoon near Cayo Costa,

barrier island west of densely populated Fort Myers in Lee County.

"Although I don't have confirmed numbers, I definitely know that the victims are in the hundreds,"

Heading 3

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America." "There are thousands of people waiting to be rescued."

Pressed on the numbers, Marceno said “so far confirmed in the hundreds.

This means that we react to events, drowning. Again, we are unsure of the exact details as we are only just scratching the surface of this assessment.”

Emergency crews cut through uprooted trees to reach people in flooded homes.

"If the line is busy, keep trying," Marceno said on Facebook early Thursday.

More than 2.5 million Florida homes and businesses were without power early Thursday morning.

Ian weakened to a tropical storm, but was forecast to continue roaring across the state for most of the day before heading into the Atlantic.

The storm flooded entire communities and left residents stranded in their homes with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.

– just 7 miles per hour from a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.