As Florida on Friday began to assess the damage from Ian and continued to rescue stranded residents, the storm picked up speed over the Atlantic on its way to South Carolina, where it was expected to make landfall at around 2pm local time, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
The NHC warned about “life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions expected along the Carolina coast later today” as well as “flooding rains likely across the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia.” At 2am Ian was registering sustained wind speeds of 85 mph (140 km/h).
In South Carolina, similar scenes were playing out as those seen in Florida ahead of Ian’s arrival. Plywood planks and sandbags were being put into place while people lined up at stores to purchase food, water and other essential items. Evacuations of coastal areas were also taking place. The two Carolinas and Virginia have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Ian’s arrival.
However, by Friday afternoon the cyclone is not expected to be anywhere near the strength with which it hit southwest Florida on Tuesday, when winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) leveled homes and flooded low-lying neighborhoods in Fort Myers, population 83,500. Naples, Cape Coral and nearby islands also sustained severe flooding and destruction. There was damage to inland communities all the way to Orlando.
“Some of the homes were wiped out, and some were just concrete slabs,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in a 7.30pm update on Thursday. DeSantis said there had been around 700 confirmed rescues and that “we are absolutely expecting to see mortality from this hurricane” although no figure has been confirmed yet.
Over two million customers were still without power early Friday, others had no drinking water, and some stood on the wreckage of what had been their homes. The hurricane damaged bridges, flooded streets and highways, toppled buildings and left large areas of Florida in a catastrophic situation. Beaches that were once a tourist paradise now look like rubble dumps.
Quantifying the material damage is very complicated, but the financial rating firm Fitch estimates that insurers alone will have to face compensation amounting to anywhere between $25 billion and $40 billion, according to a preliminary report published this Thursday. The number could rise with damage in the Carolinas. In 2005 insurance companies faced a tab of $65 billion following Katrina, the deadliest and most destructive of the hurricanes to have hit the United States in recent history.