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Hurricane Ian Leaves Wake of Devastation in Florida

One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the Florida peninsula causes catastrophic destruction to the state's southwestern coast.
Hurricane Ian Leaves Wake of Devastation in Florida

The extent of Hurricane Ian’s destruction became clearer as people across southwestern Florida, left without electricity, drinking water or inhabitable homes, began to assess the damage and gird for what Gov. Ron DeSantis said would be a years-long recovery, reports the New York Times.

Hurricane Ian’s Staggering Scale of Wreckage Becomes Clear in Florida (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: The scale of the wreckage was staggering, even to Florida residents who had survived and rebuilt after other powerful hurricanes. The storm pulverized roads, toppled trees, gutted downtown storefronts and set cars afloat, leaving a soggy scar of ruined homes and businesses from the coastal cities of Naples and Fort Myers to inland communities around Orlando. Although state officials had not released a death toll by late in the day, Mr. DeSantis said Thursday night that "we absolutely expect" to learn of storm-related fatalities as rescuers work through a backlog of 911 calls and scour the most devastated neighborhoods. More than 500 people in Charlotte and Lee Counties, the hardest hit, had been rescued on Thursday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said; the small town of Fort Myers Beach, on a barrier island just off the coast, appeared decimated.
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Hurricane Ian tore across Florida with such ferocity that President Joe Biden said it could be the deadliest in the state's history, according to NBC News. Speaking after a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Thursday morning, Biden said that while the death toll remained unclear, early reports suggest the loss of life could be "substantial."

At least 12 confirmed dead as the scope of Hurricane Ian’s devastation comes into focus (NBC News)

Excerpt from NBC News: One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the United States, Ian left roughly 2.3 million customers without power as of Thursday afternoon. Several hospitals had no water, and thousands of residents were trapped in their homes. Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told NBC's "TODAY" show that Ian was one of the most ferocious storms he had witnessed in decades, gutting him emotionally. "Watching the water from my condo in the heart of downtown, watching that water rise and just flood out all the stores on the first floor, it was heartbreaking," he said. Photos and videos on social media showed the scenes of devastation: Orlando inundated by floodwaters, boats wrecked in Fort Myers, trees snapped like toothpicks in Punta Gorda. Part of the Sanibel Causeway was destroyed, blocking vehicles from crossing the bridge. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the storm would rank as "one of the top five hurricanes to ever hit the Florida peninsula.” Biden declared a major disaster, freeing up federal aid to assist with local and state recovery efforts.
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ABC News reports that Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida's already-fragile homeowners insurance market. Experts say a major storm like Ian could push some of those insurance companies into insolvency, making it harder for people to collect on claims.

"Hurricane Ian will test the financial preparedness of some insurers to cover losses to their portfolios, in particular smaller Florida carriers with high exposure concentrations in the impacted areas," Jeff Waters, an analyst at Moody's Analytics subsidiary RMS and a meteorologist, told ABC News

Hurricane Ian could cripple Florida's home insurance industry (ABC News)

Excerpt from ABC News: Since January 2020, at least a dozen insurance companies in the state have gone out of business, including six this year alone. Nearly 30 others are on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation's "Watch List" because of financial instability. More than 1 million homes on the Florida Gulf Coast are in the storm's path, and while Ian's track and severity can change in the coming days, one early estimate pegs the potential reconstruction cost at $258 billion, according to Corelogic, a property analytics firm. Industry analysts say years of rampant and frivolous litigation and scams have brought Florida's home-insurance market to its knees, with many large insurers like Allstate and State Farm, reducing their exposure to the state in the past decade.
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According to the New York Times, new data from NASA reveals how warm ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico fueled Hurricane Ian to become one of the most powerful storms to strike the United States in the past decade.

How Hurricane Ian Became So Powerful (New York Times)

Excerpt from the New York Times: Sea surface temperatures were especially warm off Florida’s southwest coast, allowing the storm to pick up energy just before crashing into the state north of Fort Myers. As it moved inland, it lost power and was downgraded to a tropical storm, but grew into a hurricane again as it traveled across the warm Atlantic toward South Carolina. Storms usually weaken as they move over land and lose access to their main source of moisture and energy. Hurricane Ian was able to, over the course of its path, pull a lot of energy out of the ocean, which could have sustained it for longer than normal. September is the peak of hurricane season, spurred by temperatures in the Gulf that are warmer than at other times of the year, experts say. However, waters off the coast were also two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual for this time of year, according to preliminary data from NASA. And a few degrees can make a huge difference because it provides extra energy for a storm.
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Meanwhile, a revived Hurricane Ian set its sights on South Carolina’s coast Friday and the historic city of Charleston, with forecasters predicting a storm surge and floods after the megastorm caused catastrophic damage in Florida and left people trapped in their homes, writes Politico.

Hurricane Ian heads for Carolinas after pounding Florida (Politico)

Excerpt from Politico: With all of South Carolina’s coast under a hurricane warning, a steady stream of vehicles left Charleston on Thursday, many likely heeding officials’ warnings to seek higher ground. Storefronts were sandbagged to ward off high water levels in an area prone to inundation. Along the Battery area at the southern tip of the 350-year-old city’s peninsula, locals and tourists alike took selfies against the choppy backdrop of whitecaps in Charleston Harbor as palm trees bent in gusty wind. With winds holding at 85 mph, the National Hurricane Center’s update at 5 a.m. Friday placed Ian about 145 miles southeast of Charleston and forecast a "life-threatening storm surge" and hurricane conditions along the Carolina coastal area later Friday.
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