DeSantis briefs the state on devastation, recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian

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Hurricane Ian on Wednesday battered Southwest Florida, and as the storm continued its wrath on the east coast as a tropical storm, Gov. Ron DeSantis shed light Thursday morning on the destruction discovered so far.

At his press conference, DeSantis said over 2 million people in Southwest Florida are without power. That number is much larger when counting counties outside that area. There are 1.5 million power outages in seven Southwest Florida counties. DeSantis said that Charlotte and Lee counties are practically “off the grid.”

He said Charlotte and Lee counties will need to rebuild their infrastructure. There was major flooding in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and other surrounding areas. DeSantis described the event as a 500-year flood.

 There are reports of structural damages to many bridges in Southwest Florida. The bridges to Sanibel Island and Pine Island are unpassable and will need structural rebuilds.

The state is working with hospitals in the area. They are also in the process of evacuating two healthcare facilities.

Relief efforts are underway. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard are participating in rescue missions. Crews are bringing in 100 portable cell towers to help bring back communication. Over 300 truckloads of food and water are coming in for relief as well.

Florida Department of Transportation is on the ground to make sure roadways are open. DeSantis said Alligator Alley, the portion of I-75 between Miami and Naples, is open.

Florida has been granted 100% federal assistance for 30 days. DeSantis said FEMA has activated individual assistance. For those who qualify and need FEMA assistance, go to FEMA.gov or call 1-800-621-3262.

Director of Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie also spoke at the press conference. He said the 72-hour priorities are to, “search, secure and stabilize.” There are a lot of tarps and medical supplies in warehouses ready to go. He said he wants to make sure resources get to people as quickly as possible.

Guthrie said if you are in an emergency situation, call 911. If you are sheltering in place, you can complete the Shelter in Place survey at floridadisaster.org/report.

There has also been a lot of money coming in from the Florida Disaster Relief Fund. According to First Lady Casey DeSantis, $1.6 million has already been donated to the fund in the last 24 hours. The governor urges Floridians to donate to the relief fund instead of sending individual items so that unique needs are met.

To donate to the Florida Disaster Relief Fund, go to floridadisasterfund.org. To find volunteer opportunities, go to volunteerflorida.org.

Officials are urging Floridians to stay away from Southwest Florida and keep roads clear statewide as much as possible for first responders.

They also reminded residents to avoid any standing water and take pictures of home damages if they intend to file for help.

As what is left of Hurricane Ian moves north, DeSantis said parts of Central and Northeast Florida are expected to receive unprecedented flooding.

About Aileyahu Shanes

Aileyahu is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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