Hurricane Ian, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S., has proven to be an especially unfortunate combination of deadly, devastating, and expensive.
The Category 4 storm made landfall near Cape Coral on Florida’s southwest coast on September 28, 2022. Hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged, while more than 5,000 were completely destroyed. Portions of bridges and roadways were washed away and houses were pushed off their foundations. More than 150 people died. Some have referred to Ian as southwest Florida's Andrew.
Hurricane Ian is also adding up to be the costliest in Florida’s history, according to the National Hurricane Center, with more than $109 billion in damages in Florida alone. As a result, numerous property insurers have either gone out of business or can no longer afford to do business in the state. As a consequence – and as any homeowner in Florida can attest – homeowner’s insurance rates have since skyrocketed.
What follows is a recap of the damage Hurricane Ian caused in Florida.
Catastrophic Storm Surge
Most of the damage caused by Ian was due to a catastrophic storm surge. It took down buildings and resulted in a record number of deaths from both drowning and injuries sustained as the structures people were hunkering down in were destroyed. Coastal communities in Lee County (including Fort Myers Beach) bore the brunt of its impact.
At its peak, Ian’s storm surge brought a wall of water 10 to 15 feet above ground level crashing into houses, businesses, boats, and marinas along the shore. Homes were pushed or floated off their foundations. Boats were tossed around and left piled-up onshore after the waters receded. For a time, Sanibel Island and Pine Island were not accessible by car, stranding the residents who live there.
Ian’s storm surge was not the only thing responsible for devastating the area. The hurricane happened to make landfall along the densely populated southwest Florida coastline. And, while building codes helped ensure newer buildings in the area could withstand hurricane-force winds, even these buildings were no match for the strength of Ian’s storm surge.
In retrospect, engineers have noted certain building strategies might’ve reduced the amount of destruction, such as constructing a home’s lower levels as “sacrificial floors” so water can more easily pass through it rather than accumulate inside, speeding its collapse or allowing it to be pushed off its foundation. In addition, the absence of natural buffers like mangroves and wetlands (removed or filled in to make room for coastal development) exacerbated the impact of Ian’s storm surge. An extensive canal system in the area also allowed the storm surge to travel further inland than it might have otherwise.
Extensive Wind Damage
At landfall, Hurricane Ian’s winds raged at 150 mph, which resulted in a Category 4 storm, just shy of the 157 mph needed to qualify as a Cat 5. Still, Ian’s winds hit the state with enough force to rip roofs off homes, uproot trees, knock down power lines and utility poles, causing extensive damage.
Intense winds over 100 mph tore across southwest Florida for hours. It knocked out electricity for 2-3 million homes, hundreds of thousands of whom remained without power a week after the storm. Most homes in Lee and Charlotte counties lost power, and the electrical grids were damaged so badly, many would need to be rebuilt. Property damage due to the high winds was extensive, especially for older construction.
Severe Freshwater Flooding
Hurricane Ian caused historic flooding unlike anything the state has seen in 500 years, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is reported as saying. The Coast Guard was kept busy picking up residents trapped on the roofs of their homes after the storm passed. Ian left entire swaths of the state flooded. In central and eastern Florida, heavy rainfall totaled 10–20 inches. The water kept rising in the days after the storm and remained engorged for weeks. Rivers overflowed their banks, while normally dry roads, highways, property, and farmland were quickly overwhelmed with excess water.
Hurricane Ian: Deaths
Hurricane Ian, with more than 150 dead, is the deadliest hurricane in Florida since 1935, when the Labor Day Hurricane killed just over 400.
The more than 156 deaths attributable to Hurricane Ian are broken down as follows: 66 deaths directly caused by the storm, and 90 indirect deaths. The storm surge was responsible for 41 of the 66 direct deaths. Other causes include inland flooding (12), marine fatalities (8), wind (4), and rough surf (1). Leading causes of the 90 indirect deaths include lack of medical care, accidents, and cardiac events, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Property Damage & Costs
Hurricane Ian is adding up to be the costliest in Florida’s history: with more than $109 billion in damages in Florida alone, and the third-most expensive in the nation:
• Hurricane Katrina (2005) = $193.8 billion
• Hurricane Harvey (2017) = $153.8 billion
• Hurricane Ian (2022) = $115.2 billion
In terms of property damage, Ian damaged more than 30,000 homes in Florida and demolished an estimated 5,000 homes in Lee County. Nearly all buildings in Fort Myers Beach were either gone or destroyed beyond repair after Ian passed through. Insured property losses are expected to be as much as $70 billion.
The Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimated losses to the state’s crops and infrastructure in the amount of $1.1 to $1.8 billion.
Don’t Wait ‘til the Next Big One: Get Home Insurance Now
Keeping you, your loved ones, and your home safe and sound is Florida Peninsula Insurance Company’s biggest priority. We offer multi-peril policies covering homes, condos, and renter’s belongings. Don’t wait until the next Hurricane Ian is on your doorstep before you get your policy in place. Get started now with a quote or by calling your Florida Peninsula Insurance agent.