Fort Myers mayor says county acted ‘appropriately’ with evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ian

Washington – Its mayor Fort Myers, Floridaone of the hardest hit areas Hurricane Ian last week, he defended the timing of evacuation orders issued by Lee County officials as the storm approached the southwest region of the state, saying they “acted appropriately.”

“Hurricane season warnings start in June. And so there’s a degree of personal responsibility here,” Mayor Kevin Anderson said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “I think the county did the right thing. The thing is, a certain percentage of people won’t heed the warnings regardless.

Lee County officials issued the first mandatory evacuation orders Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours before Hurricane Ian made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in southwest Florida. The orders also came after calls from neighboring counties for their residents to evacuate Monday ahead of the impending storm.

Hurricane Ian devastated the region, and CBS News found the number of deaths directly or indirectly attributable to the hurricane to be at least 73 in Florida. Of those, 35 were in Lee County and 23 in Charlotte County. As of Saturday morning, US Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials said about 4,000 people have been rescued in Florida.

Anderson said in Fort Myers, crews are working 16 hours a day to restore power and water to homes and businesses in the area.

“Most of our damage was right along the river and was caused by flooding. I was in one of the hardest hit areas yesterday on the east side of town,” Anderson said. “You can see that the newer houses are intact and they’re fine. But the older houses that were built lower, and not to current codes, were more damaged. So having consistent good building codes is the key to this issue.” “

Deanne Criswell, FEMA administrator, said the agency’s focus is to help those in Florida who have felt the most significant effects of the hurricane.

“Right now, we have a lot of staff, we have a lot of resources that are embedded across the state in Florida, making sure that we continue to be the first priority which is to save as many lives as possible and get immediate help to those who need it the most. at the time,” he told “Face the Nation.”

Criswell, who visited Florida on Friday and Saturday, said she saw the extent of the storm’s devastation, with many homes “completely destroyed.”

“We will make sure we have the right people there to help provide the temporary support right now, but in the long term we need to help these communities recover,” he said.

He said the agency, which administers relief to those affected, is also going to work with partners like the Small Business Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help support families and communities.

“We’re going to work together on what those unmet needs are and what their long-term needs are, and we’re going to make sure that we provide the resources and the support to those communities, temporarily and then long-term to get those communities back on their feet while they’re rebuilding,” Criswell said.

Sen. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, told “Face the Nation” that when he was working with FEMA as governor, the agency was a “good partner.” But Congress, too, may need to provide emergency relief to help the state recover.

“We’ve made commitments and we’re going to help our families, our businesses, our state and local governments, and as a federal government, we have to do our job,” he said. “Now, we have to be careful how we spend our money. So always try to understand how you pay for things.”

Scott noted that after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and while serving as governor from 2011 to 2019, the state updated building codes to reduce the risk of hurricane damage. After that, he said, “we will learn that we will have to continue to improve our building codes.”

Criswell also said that for people who lost their homes in the storm, they need to understand the risks as they begin to make decisions about rebuilding.

“We have to make sure we have strong building codes because we have hazards everywhere, we’ve seen damage across the state, and we have to have building codes that can make sure our properties can withstand the impacts that we have.” I see from these severe weather events,” he said.

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