ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Friday afternoon during a news conference in St. Augustine that emergency response experts expect the first 10 days after Hurricane Ian’s landfall to be deadly.
There have been at least 21 hurricane-related deaths. Medical examiners are tasked with determining the cause of death, so officials can determine whether or not Hurricane Ian was to blame.
“Just because the storm has passed don’t think that there aren’t hazards there,” DeSantis said referring to threats such as live power lines and gas leaks.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie also provided their updates.
“Neighbors are helping neighbors. They are really jumping in and helping each other out,” Criswell said before praising “the absolute heroic efforts” of the local first responders.
Federal and state teams are working together to rescue survivors who may be trapped in unsafe conditions and recover the bodies of those who didn’t survive the Category 4 storm’s ferocity.
DeSantis said helicopters responded to Captiva, Sanibel Island, and other barrier islands to check up on survivors who can’t drive to the mainland because of the collapsed causeway. Many of them, he said, told rescuers they want to stay home.
“The issue is going to be long-term,” DeSantis said about the repairs and replacement of damaged infrastructure.
Rescue teams have checked on about 3,000 homes, officials reported. Guthrie said this is an opportunity for residents to apply for federal aid to prepare for the next hurricane.
DeSantis, Guthrie, and Criswell said residents in Central Florida will also need assistance. DeSantis said there was a lot of standing water in Kissimmee. He said FEMA was going to be covering the cost of the workforce need
Criswell also asked residents to reach out to their insurance companies quickly before filing their applications with FEMA.
“It’s important to know that FEMA does not replace insurance,” Criswell said.
The hurricane’s storm surge pushed through buildings and homes and tossed around cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, houseboats, yachts, and almost everything in its way.
Older homes, DeSantis said, “just washed into the ocean.”
It tore through coastal neighborhoods and destroyed mobile home communities. It uprooted trees and damaged traffic lights, electric poles, and power lines.
“The biggest challenge with power restoration is going to be in those areas that bore the brunt of the Category 4 plus, almost Category 5, impact, where it may have uprooted some of the existing infrastructures,” DeSantis said.
Guthrie said Lee County didn’t have enough time to prepare for the storm because it was so difficult to have a definite forecast. DeSantis said local emergency teams prepared.
“Fort Myers and Naples were not even in the cone,” DeSantis said adding the assumption was that it would hit Tampa.
There were towns and cities with communication dead zones. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. National Guard helicopters facilitated the rescue effort amid the chaos.
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