Hurricane Ian wreaks devastation on southwest, central Florida: Photos

A number of South Florida developers have projects along the Gulf coast

Hurricane Ian pummeled southwest Florida, possibly killing hundreds of people and destroying homes, bridges and other structures in its path.

The storm, which was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm on Thursday, could become a hurricane again as it leaves Florida and heads for the Carolinas. It largely bypassed South Florida, but continued to dump rain on central Florida, flooding homes and leaving other destruction in its wake.

At least 12 people were reported dead, according to the Palm Beach Post, though that number is expected to rise into the hundreds as search and rescue teams continue their efforts. The reconstruction process will take years in some parts of the state, with the cost of insurance expected to increase further and the number of insurers to continue to dwindle.

In the counties under evacuation orders, only 18.5 percent of homes have National Flood Insurance Program coverage, the New York Times reported.

Portions of the Sanibel Causeway, which connected Sanibel and Captiva islands to the mainland, were destroyed and washed away by storm surge. Aerial photographs showed homes that had been stripped into pieces, appearing like matchsticks.

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More than 7.2 million homes with a combined reconstruction value of $1.6 trillion were within the impact area of the hurricane’s moderate and high flash flood risk bands, CoreLogic estimated earlier this week.

The hurricane was expected to hit the Tampa and St. Petersburg area harder, but ended up veering south, devastating Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Naples and other cities.

A number of major developers, including the Related Group, Mast Capital, John Catsimatidis and Key International, have projects in the Tampa Bay area, where the real estate market has boomed. Blocks from the bay, Catsimatidis’ firm Red Apple Real Estate is building the tallest tower on Florida’s Gulf Coast, a 46-story, 301-unit condo tower in St. Petersburg, spanning 1.3 million square feet.

Related’s Tampa projects include a residential and retail tower along the riverwalk and the two-phase Ritz-Carlton Residences, Tampa. The Miami-based firm has said that it has more than $1.5 billion in development in the region.

In a statement provided to The Real Deal, Related Chairman and CEO Jorge Pérez said the hurricane was “a reminder of just how fragile life is” and the importance of communities coming together. Pérez said that none of Related’s projects were affected, and thanked the people who helped prepare and secure Related’s sites.

“My heart goes out to all of the families and businesses that were impacted by the storm,” he added.