Thousands of Floridians without flood insurance could face financial ruin in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which first hit the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, according to a new report.
Large swaths of Florida’s western coastline, including the Fort Myers area, were battered by Ian as ocean waters slammed the coast and the storm brought massive rainfall, leading to the flooding of inland areas where people are less likely to have flood insurance.
“Ian could financially ruin thousands of families in Florida. There’s no better way to say it,” Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute told Politico. He added that people could be “devastated” by the impact of the storm, especially if they did not have flood insurance.
According to E&E News, only 29% of individuals in the nine counties with a disaster declaration approved by the White House have flood insurance. The counties, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota, are home to roughly 2.8 million people.
In Hardee County, which has around 8,000 households, only 100 are covered with federal flood insurance. This means that thousands of residents could be in serious trouble if their homes were destroyed as a result of Ian.
“There are going to be a lot of folks without flood coverage,” said Carolyn Kousky, an expert on floods. “If you don’t have insurance, economic recovery from these events is really hard.”
According to one estimate, the storm could cost between $55-65 billion in damage to infrastructure, homes, and farms in the Sunshine State. Florida’s citrus industry is expected to take an especially hard hit because of the storm.
Florida’s insurance industry is also facing financial difficulties, which could be exacerbated by the aftermath of the massive storm.
“Florida is already having a problem with [insurance] availability. It’s having a problem with affordability. And it’s having a problem with reliability when insurance companies are going insolvent,” said Nancy Watkins, a principal with an actuarial consulting group. “All three of the pillars of a sustainable market are under threat.”
Since hitting Florida, Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to Post-Tropical Cyclone Ian as it moves across the eastern Carolinas, but officials are still warning of dangerous conditions brought on by the storm.
The National Hurricane Center said Friday afternoon that high winds of up to 70 mph are expected to continue through early Saturday along the coasts of South Carolina and in southeastern North Carolina. “Considerable flooding” is also forecast for the Carolinas and southeast Virginia.
The agency previously warned residents of coastal South Carolina that storm surges could reach heights of seven feet in some areas if peak surges occur during high tide. Video of the touristy downtown Charleston, South Carolina, showed major flooding already affecting the city. Downed power lines were also reported in the area.
Zach Jewell contributed to this report.