WACHULA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday held a news conference at the Hardee County Emergency Management office in Wachula.
DeSantis was joined at the event by Dane Eagle, secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and Air Force Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert to discuss the impact Hurricane Ian had on Hardee County.
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“This is a massive storm that really had massive water dumped all over this state, the interior of the state all the way out to the east coast of Florida. And so right here, we came in, I saw some via air, and then we’re able to drive around and see some of the some of the water and it’s really, really significant,” the governor said at the briefing Saturday afternoon.
He added that residents throughout the county have experienced many hurricanes, but possibly none that brought this much water.
“It was devastating impacts. We typically don’t reach any type of serious flood stage,” DeSantis said. “We hit right over 27 feet so that caused massive flooding for people who typically wouldn’t be affected by that attack, by that type of rain.”
The governor surveyed the structural damage in the area, including a bridge that collapsed, and sent the Florida Department of Transportation to assess the options needed to resolve infrastructure problems brought about by Ian.
As of 7 a.m. Saturday, Florida officials said they had conducted more than 1,100 rescues throughout the state.
During an earlier news conference Saturday in Fort Myers, DeSantis updated what progress had been made in 48 hours regarding power restoration and general infrastructure repairs, mainly focused on South Florida.
“As of right now, you got about 73% of Lee County without power and 77% of Charlotte County without power. The county that has the most without power is currently Hardee County, and that is 88% without power. We have moved 1.6 million gallons of fuel in the Southwest Florida to support the response. I’m looking at some of these gas stations, some of them are very busy, some of them have generators to be able to run, some of them may have electricity. Others, the fuel is pouring in, it’s just they may not have the electricity to operate their pumps and so that’s going to be, you know, the issue as more people come online, you’re going to have more of that, but we’ve got a lot of fuel that are here earmarked for whatever needs that people have,” DeSantis said.
The governor said over 1,300 pairs of boots were on the ground on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation, worn by crews that have since cleared 1,300 miles of roadways.
“There’s also other areas where we may expect additional flooding, and it was interesting, I was touring Central Florida with some of the aerial tours, there was more standing water in Central Florida than there was here in Southwest Florida even though they’re a couple hundred miles away from the initial impact of the of the storm and the storm surge, just had a lot of water with some of the rivers and inlets overflowing, so it’s creating a lot of problems really all across the state. If that impacts bridges, if that impacts roads, then obviously FDOT needs to maintain safe,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also did some more stumping for the Florida Disaster Fund, where he suggested uninsured individuals go for help should they encounter issues with the “bureaucracy” of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA had previously deemed people and households in 17 Florida counties eligible for individual assistance, including Lee County, where DeSantis spoke.
“You know, I was talking to some of the motorists coming in, they had questions for me about FEMA. Like, ‘FEMA told me I couldn’t get this last time,’ or whatever. FEMA is, you know, it’s a bureaucracy, and they’re gonna go by whatever those regulations are, so you may have needs that don’t fit into one of their wickets. So floridadisasterfund.org, working with these private groups, can help meet needs of people that would not be covered by FEMA, so it’s an important complement to what the state and every in these communities are doing overall,” DeSantis said.
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