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Florida toll from storm rises

A destroyed house at San Carlos Island following Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, US, on Oct. 2.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

Five days after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, bringing with it a deadly storm surge, catastrophic flooding and powerful winds, the destruction it caused is becoming clearer.

Florida’s death toll from Ian has climbed to at least 68, according to officials, while the Associated Press put the number at 71, adding to fatalities in Cuba and North Carolina. Insured losses have risen to as much as $57 billion, according to modeler Verisk. President Joe Biden is scheduled to come to Florida on Wednesday to survey the damage from what he described as one of the worst storms to ever hit the U.S. Biden is currently in Puerto Rico, where the U.S. government has pledged more than $60 million in funding to help the island rebuild after Hurricane Fiona.

The National Hurricane Service discontinued its updates on Ian over the weekend after it weakened to a post-tropical cyclone. By Saturday, the system had “fully dissipated,” according to the agency.

Death toll rises, electricity supplies down

At least 78 people have been confirmed dead from the storm, including 71 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba, the Associated Press said. Search and rescue efforts continue in the state, where more than 1,600 people have been rescued statewide.

About 520,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without electricity Monday evening, the AP said. Ian knocked out power to millions of customers across Florida and crews have been working to restore electricity infrastructure. State officials said they expect power to be restored by Sunday to customers whose power lines and other electric infrastructure is still intact, according to the AP.

Rental home provider sees limited damage

American Homes 4 Rent, a single-family landlord with more than 52,500 rental houses in multiple states, said preliminary assessments show properties in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina suffered limited damage from Ian. 

The firm has “begun processing related repair and maintenance work orders to return impacted houses to full operation as quickly as possible,” Chief Executive Officer David Singelyn said in a statement. 

Big-box stores are back in business

Most of Florida’s retail stores have resumed operations following Ian’s aftermath. As of Monday, Target had only one store in the state closed while a Walmart Inc. Supercenter in the Fort Myers area was the retail giant’s only Florida location still shut. Winn-Dixie is down to less than 10 closures including in Bradenton and Port Charlotte, according to its website, although some outlets are closing early at 6 p.m.

Publix, which only had 11 stores shut down as of last Friday, didn’t immediately provide an update.

Rebuilding cities comes at a costly time

Florida cities looking to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Ian will be financing their efforts during the worst environment for municipal borrowing in more than a decade. 

Washed-out roads and bridges are only the most glaring examples of urgent infrastructure repairs that the state and its localities are grappling with after the storm. Debt to fund the recovery will probably start hitting the municipal market as soon as this quarter, according to Barclays Plc.

Federal and state aid will likely ease much of the financial blow, but officials looking to issue debt to rebuild and also bolster infrastructure against the risk of increasingly severe weather will be doing so during a brutal juncture for the bond market: Ten-year benchmark municipal yields are near the highest since 2011, and the Federal Reserve is signaling further interest-rate hikes to combat rampant inflation.

Insurer of last resort can absorb Ian claims costs

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s state-backed insurer of last resort, said it won’t need to charge its policyholders or taxpayers to cover claims brought on by Hurricane Ian.

The insurer is facing more than 225,000 claims and $1.9 billion to $3.7 billion in losses, Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier said Monday in an email. State law requires the company to levy assessments when it experiences deficits in the wake of a major storm or disaster.

Insured losses mount from Ian’s devastation

Verisk estimated that insured losses to onshore property from Ian will range from $42 billion to $57 billion. That includes wind, storm surge and inland flood losses resulting from both of Ian’s landfalls in Florida and South Carolina. 

Wind damage accounts for the majority of the loss estimate, totaling anywhere from $38 billion to $51 billion. Ian’s storm surge likely racked up $3 billion to $5.5 billion in insured losses and inland flooding less than $1 billion.

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