Financial losses due to Ian's powerful punch continue to mount
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - As the aftermath of Hurricane Ian continues to disrupt everyday life in parts of Florida where the storm wreaked havoc, data outlining financial and agricultural losses is trickling in.
State law enforcement officials reported Thursday evening that the death toll attributed to Ian had risen to 92, with more than half of those deaths concentrated in hard-hit Lee County.
Insurance claims linked to Ian piled up to 375,293 by Thursday, with estimated insured losses of about $3.28 billion, according to data posted on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation website.
Floridians also could have more than $10 billion in uninsured flood losses, according to an analysis by CoreLogic, a property information and analytics firm.
CoreLogic released a projection Thursday of $10 billion to $16 billion in uninsured flood losses in Florida. That is in addition to the firm’s estimate of $30 billion to $48 billion in insured wind and flood losses in the state.
The number of claims and estimates of insured losses are expected to continue to climb, but not all damages can readily be tallied.
Farmers and ranchers, for example, continue waiting for flood waters to recede to get a complete picture of Ian’s destruction to citrus groves and cattle operations.
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"We have yet, I think, to see the full extent of what the damage is going to be," said Sen. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who owns citrus groves and is expected to become Senate president in 2024.
The citrus industry anecdotally is reporting large numbers of uprooted trees and downed fruit, primarily the early season Hamlin orange variety, in Collier, Lee, DeSoto, Hardee, and Polk counties. Those counties play a major role in growing oranges.
Florida Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jim Handley told The News Service of Florida this week that "about 42 percent" of Florida’s cattle population was affected by Hurricane Ian.
Handley said he couldn’t give an estimate on the full impact on the industry, as ranchers scramble for feed and continue to make emergency repairs to fences and buildings.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are gearing up to pump more money into a new state disaster-relief fund, which Gov. Ron DeSantis has been running through to speed up recovery from Hurricane Ian.
House and Senate leaders announced Wednesday the Joint Legislative Budget Commission will hold an emergency meeting next week to release an additional $360 million into the Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund, which was established this year with $500 million.
Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said the emergency money will "fund key response and recovery programs," including the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program.
The announcement of the Oct. 12 meeting came the same day President Joe Biden visited Fort Myers to conduct an aerial survey of damage from the storm. Biden, who met with DeSantis, also on Wednesday extended a period when the federal government will pick up hurricane-recovery costs in 17 counties declared a disaster because of Ian, from 30 to 60 days.