HOLT, Fla., Sept. 29, 2022—Hurricane Ian slammed onto Florida’s southeast coast yesterday packing 150 mph winds causing extensive damage across the area.
The National Hurricane Center reported landfall at 3:05 near at Cayo Costa, a barrier island in the Fort Myers area.
“The impacts of this storm are historic,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference this morning. “We’ve never seen a flood event like this.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the actual extent of the flooding won’t be known until teams go into the areas to investigate how high the waters rose.
“We’ve never seen storm surge of this magnitude,” said DeSantis. “It’s going to end up doing extensive damage to a lot of people’s homes.”
“There’s going to be a lot of work to do,” he said.
According to the governor, as of the 8 a.m. news conference, there were two unconfirmed fatalities, although it was not clear if they were storm-related.
Search, secure, stabilize
According to Kevin Guthrie, Florida Division of Emergency Management director and state coordinating officer, the recovery process is in full swing even as Ian continues to pose a major threat to not only central Florida, but to northeast Florida as well.
“We are starting our 72-hour clock,” said Guthrie. “That 72-hour clock is we search first, we secure and then we stabilize. That is what the focus of the state emergency response team is going to be doing over the next 72 hours.”
“Today is about identifying the people that need help, who may still be in harm’s way,” said DeSantis.
There are more than 300 trucks with food and water mobilizing to head south, according to Guthrie, as well as more than 100 mobile cell towers to help restore communications.
Florida Department of Transportation is working to make sure the roads are clear so emergency response units can get through.
“We have 100 engineers on site to do bridge inspections,” said DeSantis. “There are reports of bridges that sustained structural damage.”
Sanibel Island and Pine Island are cut off from the mainland due to bridge damage and will require structural rebuilds, according to the governor.
“Once bridges have been inspected and determined to be safe, they will be reopened,” he said.
According to the governor, flooding and rising water in central Florida “is basically a 500-year flood event.”
“This storm is having broad impacts across the state,” he said. “Some of the flooding you’re going to see hundreds of miles from where this made landfall are going to set records.”
According to the governor, response is focused on areas hit the hardest, such as the barrier islands and inlets, based on the emergency 9-11 calls of water rising.
For people in the hardest-hit areas, “this is still a hazardous situation,” said DeSantis.
“As of 6 a.m., this morning, we have 2.02 million reported power outages with more expected. There are 1.5 million outages in seven southwest Florida counties,” he said. “Lee and Charlotte [counties] are basically off the grid this morning at this point.”
Reconnecting Charlotte and Lee counties may require rebuilding the power grid infrastructure, he said.
According to the governor, 26 states have supplied support.
National guardsmen in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina were activated to assist with Hurricane Ian recovery.
About 5,000 Florida National Guard members were activated to state active duty prior to Ian’s landfall.
President Joe Biden has declared several counties as federal disaster areas. This will allow individuals to request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has activated individual assistance for those who qualify.
People wishing to help can do so by donating to the Florida Disaster Fund, which is being spearheaded by the governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis.
“In less than 24 hours since we’ve launched the fund, we’ve raised $1.6 million,” she said, promising to help cut through any red tape to get the money to the people who need it.
“It’s much better to donate financially than sending items,” said the governor. “We have everything we need in terms of supply.”
People wishing to donate should go to floridadisasterfund.org or text Disaster to 20222 to provide assistance. Those wanting to volunteer can do so through volunteerflorida.org to find volunteer opportunities.
“You’re looking at a storm that’s changed the character of a significant part of our state,” said DeSantis. “This is going to require not just emergency response now and in the days and weeks ahead, this is going to require years of effort to be able to rebuild and to come back.”
- FEMA: FEMA.gov or 1-800-621-3262, include a photo of the water line to get assistance faster
- State Assistance Information Line: 1-800-342-3557
- Shelter in Place Survey: FloridaDisaster.org/report
- Florida Disaster Fund: floridadisasterfund.org, or text Disaster to 20222
- Volunteer opportunities: volunteerflorida.org