Saturday, November 26, 2022

Florida, Carolinas count the cost of Hurricane Ian

Florida, Carolinas count the cost of Hurricane Ian

FLORIDA (Reuters) - Florida, North and South Carolina were on Saturday trying to recover from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian, after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US mainland caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and killed more than 20 people.

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

"The dangerous storm surge, flash flooding and high wind threat continues," it said.

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

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

Around 1.7 million homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas and Florida at 2:30 a.m. ET (0630 GMT), according to tracking website PowerOutage.us.

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

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

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

"Those older homes that just aren’t as strong built, they got washed into the sea," said Governor Ron DeSantis.

"If you are hunkering down in that, that is something that I think would be very difficult to be survivable."

Meanwhile, 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 US property data and analytics company CoreLogic.

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

"We're just beginning to see the scale of that destruction. It's likely to rank among the worst ... in the nation's history," he said.

Biden also declared an emergency in North Carolina on Saturday.

'DEVASTATING'