Florida and the Carolinas count the cost of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla./CHARLESTON, SC, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina were trying to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian on Saturday, after one of the most powerful forces to ever strike the American continent caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed more than 20 people.

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

“The dangerous storm surge, flash flooding and the threat of high winds continue,” he said.

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The storm hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, turning beach towns into disaster areas. It hit the Georgetown waterfront, north of historic Charleston in South Carolina, on Friday with winds 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 as of 2:30 a.m. ET (0630 GMT), according to tracking site PowerOutage.us.

The number of casualties and repair costs remain uncertain, 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, noting that some of them remain unconfirmed.

Some 10,000 people are missing, he said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power.

“These older homes that just aren’t as strong have been washed out to sea,” Governor Ron DeSantis said.

“If you dwell on that, it’s something that I think would be very difficult to survive.”

Meanwhile, insurers have braced for a hit of between $28 billion and $47 billion in what could be Florida’s costliest storm since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, according to the U.S. data and information firm. CoreLogic real estate analysis.

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

“We’re only just beginning to see the scale of this destruction. It’s likely to rank among the worst…in the country’s history,” he said.

Biden also declared an emergency in North Carolina on Saturday.

‘DEVASTATING’

The town of Fort Myers, Florida, near where the eye of the storm first touched down, took a heavy hit, with many homes destroyed.

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

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

Rita Chambers, a 70-year-old Jamaican-born retiree who 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 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 miles north of Georgetown, residents were also trying to rebuild their lives.

With a population of around 10,000, the city is a tourist destination known for its oak-lined streets and more than 50 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

A report commissioned by the city and released in November 2020 found that approximately 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 big storm he encountered.

“It’s the wind, it shakes you,” Cappe said. “It’s blowing furiously.”

Read more:

Maps-Hurricane Ian hits the Gulf Coast

Drone video shows boats stranded in the wake of Hurricane Ian

Florida town rebuilt after one hurricane hits another

Hurricane chaser says Ian’s eyewall flight was ‘worst I’ve ever done’

How hurricanes cause dangerous and 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

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