As Florida surveys the damage and rescues victims, Hurricane ‘Ian’ moves across the Atlantic. It is heading for the coast of South Carolina, where the eye of the hurricane will arrive this Friday at 2 p.m. local time, according to predictions from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The cyclone arrives with less force than in Florida, but it has already demonstrated its devastating power.
“On the predicted track, Ian will approach the coast of South Carolina on Friday. The eye will move inland from the Carolinas on Friday night and Saturday,” the NHC said Thursday night. Maximum sustained winds are near 75 miles per hour, about 120 kilometers per hour, with higher gusts.
The body that monitors the formation and advance of tropical cyclones warns that Ian could strengthen slightly before making landfall this Friday. Despite this, the speed of its winds at landfall will be far from the 240 kilometers per hour with which it reached the vicinity of Fort Myers, on the southwestern coast of Florida, this Tuesday. Once it moves into South Carolina, it is forecast to weaken rapidly over the southeastern United States late Friday through Saturday, when the storm crosses North Carolina and reaches Virginia.
Of course, not only the eye of the hurricane matters. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 415 miles (665 kilometers), according to data late Thursday.
The combination of the storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas around the coast to flood, warns the CNH. The rain will also wreak havoc. Substantial urban and river flash flooding is expected across coastal portions of northeastern Florida, southeastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina through Friday. There is also a risk of significant flash, urban, and creek flooding locally this weekend across areas of southern Appalachia, where mudslides are also possible. There is also a risk of tornadoes.
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In South Carolina, patterns of hurricane preparations seen before in Florida are repeated. Planks, sandbags, queues to buy water and basic food and displacement of the population from the coastal areas try to cushion the impact of the hurricane.
The two Carolinas and Virginia have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Ian’s arrival. The inhabitants prepare for the impact after the apocalyptic images that he has left in Florida. The city of Fort Myers, of about 83,500 inhabitants, and its surroundings have been the hardest hit by the hurricane. Numerous boats have entered the city with the swell, as if there had been a tsunami. Both Fort Myers and Naples, Cape Coral and the adjacent islands have seen how the water covered all their streets. In some areas, what evokes destruction is a scene of war.
Lack of electricity and water supply, collapsed bridges, flooding, impassable streets and highways, debris and damage to buildings and infrastructure have left large areas of Florida in a catastrophic situation. Beaches that were a tourist paradise now look like rubble dumps.
Emergency teams have rescued some 700 people trapped by the floods, but there is great uncertainty about the possible fatalities. The lack of confirmation of specific cases contrasts with the words of the president of the United States, Joe Biden: “The numbers are not clear yet, but we are hearing information that there could be significant loss of life,” he said, adding later that ” this could be the deadliest hurricane in the history of Florida”, which would imply reaching several dozen deaths. The sheriff of Lee, the county where Fort Myers is located, spoke early in the morning of “hundreds” of deaths, later saying in another interview that those he had hired were “about five”, a figure that has not been until now confirmed by other sources.
From 25,000 to 40,000 million
The evacuations ordered for 2.5 million people, the preparations to take shelter from the storm and the repeated warnings of the authorities have undoubtedly saved a great number of lives.
Quantifying the material damage is very complicated, but the financial rating firm Fitch estimates that insurers alone will have to face compensation amounting to 25,000 to 40,000 million dollars, according to a preliminary report published this Thursday. The number could rise with damage in the Carolinas. That compares with the 65,000 million they had to face in 2005 for Katrina, the deadliest and most destructive of the hurricanes that have hit the United States in recent history, and with the 36,000 million in compensation for Ida, in 2021, according to the agency. Of course, to these figures must be added all uninsured property and the cost of debris removal and cleaning.
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