After Hurricane Ian’s Deadly Wrath, Florida, Carolinas Begin Cleanup

Water floods a damaged trailer park in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, after Hurricane Ian passed by the area. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

FORT MYERS, Fla./CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina faced a massive cleanup on Saturday from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian, after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed dozens.

New images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed several beach cottages and a motel building that lined the shores of Florida’s Sanibel Island HAD been wiped away by Ian’s storm surge. Even though most homes were still standing, they appeared to have roof damage, the images showed.

Ian, now a post-tropical cyclone, continued to weaken on Saturday but was still forecast to bring treacherous conditions to parts of the Central Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center, which added that flood watches were in effect across southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia.

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

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told reporters on Saturday there were no storm-related deaths in the state and that most electricity had been restored. However, he added: “We know we have much cleaning up and rebuilding to do.”

The storm struck Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, turning beach towns into disaster areas. On Friday, it pummeled waterfront Georgetown, South Carolina, north of the historic city of Charleston, with wind speeds of 85 miles (140 km) per hour.

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

Both the number of casualties and repair costs remained unclear, but the extent of the damage was becoming apparent as Florida entered its third day after Ian first hit.

There were at least 35 deaths in Florida’s Lee County alone that were attributable to the hurricane, the county sheriff’s office said in an online post. Many of the dead across Florida were elderly people, including a 92-year-old man, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said earlier.

In North Carolina, four people died in storm-related incidents, state officials said on Saturday.

Thousands of people were still unaccounted for in Florida, officials said, but many of them were likely in shelters or without power.

“We suffered more flood damage than wind damage,” Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday. “That is going to require a lot of flood claims being filed.”

Insurers braced 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 analytics company CoreLogic.

President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration, making federal resources available to counties affected by the storm. The president said Ian was “likely to rank among the worst (storms) … in the nation’s history.” On Saturday, he declared an emergency in North Carolina.

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