TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, a few hours after Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, packing winds of 155 mph, only two mph shy of being a Category 5 hurricane.
Gov. DeSantis requested a Major Disaster Declaration for all 67 counties and asked the federal government for 100% reimbursement up front for 60 days.
The governor announced later on Monday evening through a release that 5,000 Florida Guardsmen are being activated to Stave Active Duty across the state for response operations and up to 2,000 additional Guardsmen from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina are also being activated he help in relief efforts.
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Now more certain of what impacts the major hurricane will likely have throughout different parts of Florida, DeSantis was joined by Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Air Force Maj. Gen. James O. Eifert in telling residents that it’s time to find shelter. In some areas, the group said, it’s no longer possible to safely get out.
“Much of southern Florida is already experiencing impacts from the storm as it moves closer to landfall. There have been several tornado warnings issued during the overnight hours and we expect to see that continue today. A storm of this magnitude will produce catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge on the Gulf Coast of Florida and the highest risk areas are ranging from Collier County up to Sarasota County. The current track has the storm making landfall in Charlotte County,” DeSantis said. “If you are in any of those counties, it’s no longer possible to safely evacuate. It’s time to hunker down and prepare for this storm. This is a powerful storm that should be treated like you would treat if a tornado was approaching your home. If you’re out on the roads, get to a safe place as soon as possible.”
Ahead of Hurricane Ian’s projected landfall in Florida, DeSantis has been hosting news conferences such as this one to warn Florida residents about the danger posed to them, discussing the state’s response.
More than 200 shelters are open in southwest Florida alone, DeSantis said Wednesday, adding that more than 40,000 power outages had been reported in Florida by that time.
“This is a major, major storm. It’s something that we knew was going to be significant, that the strengthening of this over the last night, you know, has been really really significant. It’s potentially that it could make landfall as a Category 5 but clearly this is a very powerful, major hurricane that’s going to have major impacts, both on impact and (in) southwest Florida, but then as it continues to work through the state it is going to have major major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding; so this is going to be a nasty, nasty day, two days, probably we think now it will be exiting the peninsula sometime on Thursday. Yesterday, based on how fast it was, we thought maybe it would be till the wee hours of Friday morning. So this is going to be a rough stretch,” DeSantis said.
Guthrie elaborated on the storm’s expected place of landfall, Charlotte County, and Ian’s impacts beyond that.
“This will cause life-threatening storm surge, flooding, tropical-storm-force winds will be felt throughout the entire state and even isolated tornadoes. I urge Floridians who have made the decision to shelter in place to stay indoors and stay off the roads. You do not want to be outdoors or on the roads as a storm of this size is making landfall in your area, it is extremely dangerous. If you have battery-operated or hand-cranked weather radios, you should be checking them now, changing the batteries, making sure that they work. Power outages will occur,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie and DeSantis described such help as 30,000 linemen staged throughout the state, ready to restore power to areas that Ian leaves in the dark. Also mentioned were 1,200 Florida Department of Transportation Personnel ready to preform cut and toss operations to clear roadways, 5,000 Florida Guardsmen activated — 2,000 of whom are from neighboring states — as well as air assets and urban search and rescue teams from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stationed in South Florida, among other resources.
“I want to thank the 26 states that have sent support to us during this time, including Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, Louisiana, New York, Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, and Georgia. We very much appreciate the assistance and as the storm hits, we’ve got massive amounts of assets that are staged, but we’re already discussing about ways where we can get more value-added support,” DeSantis said.
According to DeSantis and Guthrie, impacts are expected to Nassau and Duval counties as Ian is expected to cross the state and exit through Volusia County. Primarily, trees will fall, rain will pool and power interruptions are anticipated throughout.
“I think one thing for Central Florida is, because we’ve had a lot of saturation, those trees are vulnerable, so you’re gonna see — trees are going to come down. even with tropical-storm-force winds, it does not need to be hurricane-force, you are absolutely going to see that. That is going to cause interruptions in power, and of course the sheer amount of rain that’s going to come down, it’s gonna have a major impact across the center portion of the state,” DeSantis said.
A cell assistance information line was shared for people with phone service and questions: 1-800-342-3557.
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At a follow-up news conference later Wednesday morning in Lake City, DeSantis, DEO Secretary Dane Eagle and Florida CFO and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis stood before a line of disaster-response crews at the Florida Power and Light Processing Site at the Colombia County fairgrounds.
“We have five FEMA teams that are out-of-state teams that are here to create a total complement of 600 boots on the ground, pairs of boots on the ground. That includes trauma surgeons, engineers and also K-9 units in addition to shallow-water boat vehicles. These groups will enter into those neighborhoods of the affected, devastated areas. As soon as the roadways are clear, they will literally be riding right behind DOT and forestry vehicles (once) the roads are clear, going from door to door, neighborhood to neighborhood and administering their lifesaving services based on the missions of those devastated areas,” Patronis said.
Patronis also warned of bad actors, people who may seek to take advantage of others hunkering down from the storm.
“Hurricane Ian is going to be an incredibly emotional, tragic event, and it will bring predators out that will prey on your generosity,” Patronis said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do not sign anything when anybody comes to your doorstep providing any type of services on behalf of any services you might need. Your first call needs to be to my office at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236), your insurance agent or your insurance carrier to start the claims process. Also be wary of GoFundMe scams that will emerge after this.”
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