Hurricane Ian was the fifth strongest storm ever to hit the United States. And there’s a chance it also could place among the most expensive systems ever in terms of damage.
Ian blew into southwest Florida last Wednesday, with its 150 miles per hour winds pushing a seven-foot storm surge. The storm sliced northeastward through the Florida peninsula, then popped into the Atlantic. Ian, which had dropped to a tropical storm, then regenerated over open water and morphed back into a hurricane. By Friday, the storm made another landfall in South Carolina, pounding the coast with sustained winds of up to 85 mph.
By Monday, the death toll had risen to more than 100 people. More than half the total died in Lee County, where Ian first made landfall. The county, which is home to Fort Myers, didn’t order a mandatory evacuation until the day before landfall.
So how much will Hurricane Ian cost? The data firm Enki Research suggests a cost of $87 billion. Meanwhile, the risk modeling firm Verisk projected damages between $42-57 billion. The costs include estimates from wind, flooding and storm surge. But it doesn’t include damages covered by the federal National Flood Insurance Program. Verisk said if those costs are added, the damages will approach $60 billion.
And the storm could cause at least one commodity to skyrocket. Florida accounts for 70 percent of the country’s citrus crop. Prices for orange juice could start rising, depending on how much Ian damaged the trees. Agriculture experts say the damage could be comparable to what Hurricane Irma caused in 2017. That storm damaged about a third of the state’s citrus crop.
If you’re curious, the most expensive storm on record is Hurricane Katrina, which flattened parts of Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. More than 1,800 people, most of them from New Orleans, died in the hurricane. The storm did $186.5 billion in damages. Hurricane Harvey, which made two separate landfalls in Texas, cost $148.5 billion. The storm did the most damage when it stalled over Houston and parts of Southeast Texas, dumping more than 50 inches of rain.
Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure and did damages of more than $107 billion to the U.S. territory in 2017. Then there was Hurricane Sandy, which blew through the northeast in October, 2012, cost almost $82 billion. And Hurricane Ida, which hit the southeastern Louisiana coast last summer, cost $78.7 billion.
The tourism industry also is a key part of the Florida economy. Disney World and Universal Orlando closed because of Hurricane Ian, But the two large amusement parks are set to start reopening in phases.