Florida, Carolinas count the cost of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla./CHARLESTON, SC, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Florida, North and South Carolina faced a massive cleanup on Saturday after the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms to ever hit The US mainland caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed more than 20 people.

New images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that several beach huts and a motel building that lined the coast of Florida’s Sanibel Island were obliterated by Ian’s storm surge. Although most houses were still standing, they appeared to have sustained damage, the photos showed.

Ian, now a post-tropical cyclone, was weakening but still expected to bring treacherous conditions to parts of the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia Saturday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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“Large-to-record river flooding will continue across central Florida through next week. Limited urban and small stream flooding is possible across the central Appalachians and southern Mid-Atlantic this weekend, with minor river flooding expected across the coastal Carolinas ,” that said.

The storm hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, turning beach towns into disaster zones. On Friday, it slammed into Georgetown, north of the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, with wind speeds of 85 mph (140 km/h).

Roads were flooded and blocked by trees, while a number of piers were damaged.

About 1.7 million homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas and Florida at 8 a.m. ET (1200 GMT) Saturday, according to tracking website PowerOutage.us.

Both the number of casualties and repair costs remain unclear, but the extent of the damage became clear as Florida entered its third day after Ian’s first hit.

There have been reports of at least 21 deaths, Kevin Guthrie, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management, said Friday morning, stressing that some of them remained unconfirmed.

About 10,000 people were unaccounted for, he said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power.

“The older houses that are just not built as strong, they were washed into the ocean,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“If you starve yourself into it, it’s something that I think would be very difficult to survive.”

Meanwhile, insurers were bracing for a hit of between $28 billion and $47 billion in what could be the costliest Florida storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to U.S. property data and analysis firm CoreLogic.

US President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration that makes federal resources available to counties affected by the storm.

“We are just beginning to see the extent of that destruction. It will probably be among the worst … in the nation’s history,” he said.

Biden also declared a state of emergency in North Carolina on Saturday.

‘OPEN’

The Florida city of Fort Myers, near where the eye of the storm first made landfall, absorbed a major blow, with several houses destroyed.

Offshore, Sanibel Island, a popular destination for vacationers and retirees, was cut off when a causeway was made impassable.

Hundreds of Fort Myers residents lined up at a Home Depot store Friday on the city’s east side, hoping to buy gas cans, generators, bottled water and other supplies. The line stretched as long as a football field.

Rita Chambers, a 70-year-old retiree who was born in Jamaica and has lived in Fort Myers since 1998, said Ian was unlike any storm she had ever seen.

“And I’ve been in hurricanes since I was a kid!” said Chambers, who moved to New York as a teenager.

At a mobile home park on San Carlos Island in Fort Myers Beach, trailers had been pushed together by the wind and water. A boat was lying on its side at a local marina where another boat had come to rest in a tree.

Hundreds of kilometers to the north in Georgetown, residents were also trying to put their lives back together.

With a population of about 10,000, the town is a tourist destination known for its oak trees and more than 50 sites on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

A city-commissioned report released in November 2020 found that about 90% of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.

Len Cappe, 68, a retired property manager who moved to Charleston two years ago, said Ian was the first major storm he’s encountered.

“It’s the wind, it rustles you,” Cappe said. “The wind is raging.”

Read more:

Short-hurricane Ian hits the Gulf Coast

Drone video shows boats washed ashore in the wake of Hurricane Ian

A Florida town rebuilds after one hurricane endures another

Hurricane hunter says Ian’s eyewall flight was ‘worst I’ve ever been on’

How hurricanes cause dangerous, destructive storm surges

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Reporting by Brad Brooks in Fort Myers and Jonathan Drake in Charleston Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Kanishka Singh and Juby Babu Writing by Costas Pitas Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Daniel Wallis and Frances Kerry

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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