On Thursday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference providing an update on Hurricane Ian’s impact on the state, as well as recovery efforts that are underway.
“So as soon as that storm passed, in the very wee hours of the morning, first responders from the local, state, and federal level, descended on Southwest Florida,” said DeSantis.
“The Coast Guard has been performing rescue missions on the barrier islands consistently since the wee hours of the morning. We have Florida Guard assets on the ground participating in efforts, and we have our USAR teams, who they got there even while the winds were going, they wanted to get in there, get on the ground across Alligator Alley, and they are performing rescue efforts, again, starting with those barrier islands, but also looking at the places that had the most inland flooding.”
“And these operations are ongoing,” he added, saying that there are 28 large helicopters between the National Guard and the Coast Guard that are performing active rescue missions.”
DeSantis said that rescue efforts have moved healthcare facilities to safer locations in the north of the state, as well as surge medical personnel into areas hard hit by the storm.
As of 6 am, the governor noted that the state had 2 million reported power outages, 1.5 million of which occurred in seven Southwest Florida counties. In Charlotte and Lee counties, in order for power to be restored, DeSantis said that rebuilding that infrastructure would most likely have to occur.
In addition to power outages, DeSantis said that communications interruptions have been experienced across parts of the state hardest hit, with the governor stating that 100 portable cell towers are being deployed to these areas.
Other structural issues noted by DeSantis included bridges and roads, to which he said that engineers are being deployed to inspect these areas and open roadways as soon as possible.
Speaking in regards to the massive flooding that occurred along the storm’s track, DeSantis called this “basically a 500-year flood event.”
“We have received a major disaster declaration for nine counties, but we do expect more. I just spoke with the President this morning, he offered support. I told him that thanks for this, but because the storm has moved inland and caused a lot of potential damage in the center part of our state that we are going to be asking for those counties to be expanded and included,” said DeSantis.
He later added: “We have had 26 states provide support, we really appreciate that it’s going to be put to use. I don’t think we’ve ever seen an effort mobilized for this many rescues this quickly, but we appreciate it and we will make good use of it.”
Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis noted that in the 24 hours since the Florida Disaster Fund was launched, $1.6 million has been raised.
In response to a question regarding initial fatality reports coming out of Lee County, DeSantis clarified that these are not confirmed, and were likely based on the number of 911 calls that came out of the area.
“None of that is confirmed. I think what that is, is there were 911 calls for people saying, ‘hey, the water is rising in my home. I’m gonna go up in the attic, but I’m really worried,'” he said.
“Of course, those folks are now going to be checked on and so I think you’ll have more clarity about that in the next day or so as they’re able to go to those locations and determine whether people need services are able to be rescued,” he added.
DeSantis noted that the water in that area reached extremely high levels, “but my hope is is that if folks did go higher, if they were there, it’s not comfortable, but now we’re in a situation I mean, if you’re there, they want to come get you and so hopefully we’ll be able to see a lot of those people brought to safety.”