What is the total economic damage caused by Hurricane Ian in Florida?
The eastern coast of the United States has been ravaged by a severe storm which looks set to cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has downgraded the status of Hurricane Ian to a tropical storm, reflecting the fact that wind speeds have dropped as the system moves inland. The warm Atlantic water had spawned the Category 4 hurricane earlier this week and it struck the eastern coast for a second time on Friday.
But while the immediate threat of the hurricane is beginning to subside there remains a major catastrophe spanning numerous states from Florida up to North Carolina. The storm brought with it torrential rain and surges which have lefts millions of Americans without electricity and running water.
In recent days President Biden has issued an expedited major disaster declaration in Florida and declared a federal state of emergency in South Carolina, freeing up FEMA funds to aid the response.
These efforts will be vital to rectify the damage, which data firm Enki Research estimated will reach $65 billion by the time the storm has fully passed. The group said that the best-case scenario was $55 billion in damage.
Florida feels the brunt of Hurricane Ian destruction
When the system first came ashore on Wednesday it struck southern areas of Florida as one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States. The 150mph winds and widespread flooding left search and rescue teams scrambling to rescue residents trapped in flooded homes. By Friday evening there were at least 45 confirmed fatalities as a direct result of the hurricane.
However in the coming weeks the wider impact of the staggering storm will become apparent.
The storm surge brought water cascading into major cities and clattered coastal settlements with a wall of water up to 18ft high in the south-west of the state. The storm brought the equivalent of three months’ worth of rain in just 48 hours and savaged infrastructure across the state.
“The damage that was done has been historic,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a briefing on Thursday. “We’ve never seen a flood event like this. We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude.”
As of Friday evening more than 2 million Florida residents were without power, while sections of the power grid will have to be rebuilt entirely, such was the scale of the damage.
In a briefing at the FEMA headquarters President Joe Biden warned that Ian “could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” rolling out federal disaster support in the worst-hit areas. Nine Floridian counties are operating under a major disaster declaration which will provide federal recovery efforts and access to the government aid budget for at least the next 30 days.
“They’re wondering what’s going to be left when they get to go home.” Biden said of the displaced residents, adding that federal funds would go towards “the majority of the cost of rebuilding public buildings, like schools and fire stations, and folks in Florida who have destroyed or damaged homes”.