One year later: Florida emergency management chief says Hurricane Ian recovery ‘has a way to go’

Director Kevin Guthrie says team has been on clock for 365 days

ORLANDO, Fla. – The recovery process from the massive destruction of Hurricane Ian has been “nonstop, 7 days a week” and according to Florida Emergency Management Executive Director Kevin Guthrie, the job is far from over.

“I would say it’s probably halfway,” Guthrie told News 6. “That’s a little bit of a guess on my part, but I would probably say halfway there.”

It has been one year since the powerful storm carved out parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast along with Volusia County, leaving 2.6 million residents without power and an estimated $112 billion in insured losses.

Ian is ranked as the third costliest ever in the U.S., and Guthrie admits the recovery has been difficult.

“A lot of this is private sector work,” Guthrie said. “There’s a lot of condominium associations that were not prepared for a 100% catastrophic loss of their seawalls that’s going to take years (to repair).”

Guthrie is projecting the last of the families using government shelter assistance following Hurricane Ian should move out by the end of January 2024.

He said the insurance issue has become a major economic factor for residents across the state but as insurance companies leave, roughly nine additional companies are arriving to write policies.

“The first line of defense is insurance,” Guthrie told News 6. “We want to encourage people to look at insurance and if you can’t afford full blown homeowners insurance, think about content policies.”

Guthrie said he still remembers walking the streets of Orlando following Hurricane Ian and seeing “everybody’s furniture out on the roadway.”

“A $30,000-contents policy is usually less than $200 a year, and that can help a family recover much faster,” he said.

As for the state’s status in terms of being prepared for the next tropical event, Guthrie makes it clear his team is ready.

“We’re going to start to put together best practices that we’ve learned from our debris operations and our housing missions,” he said.

As an example, Guthrie sighted the governor’s swift response to move the first travel trailers into areas hit by Hurricane Idalia “34 hours after landfall.”

It took the state several months to move trailers to families during Ian.

“We’re constantly learning, it’s an evolution and we are going to find the best practices that happened with Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Nicole and continue to apply those things as we move into 2024,” he said.

Guthrie said no matter what the event, his team is ready to act.

“I want to make sure that everybody knows that Florida stands prepared and ready,” Guthrie said. “We prefer not to have another one, but we’re ready if we have another one spin up, your state emergency response team and your governor, Ron DeSantis, is ready to respond.”

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About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.