Officials detail dire aftermath of Hurricane Ian, call for more help

Local, state and federal officials gave dire descriptions of Hurricane Ian’s impacts during their Sunday morning talk show appearances, with many calling for increased federal assistance.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell and Fort Myers, Fla. Mayor Kevin Anderson, who all reviewed Ian’s damage, told the hosts the storm caused widespread flooding and property damage across the state, with hundreds of thousands of people left without power.

“I don’t think there’s a comparison, not for Florida,” Rubio told co-anchor Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week.”

“There are entire communities – Fort Myers Beach no longer exists,” Rubio said. “I mean, it will have to be rebuilt. It will be something different. It was a slice of old Florida that you just can’t find. Sanibel is basically flattened.

Ian made landfall near Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, bringing damaging winds and an extraordinary storm surge that some say could have reached 18 feet at its peak.

At least 47 Floridians died from the hurricane, and the death toll has continued to rise as officials continue the recovery effort. The office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) said Saturday afternoon that first responders have so far performed more than 1,100 rescues.

“I know we’re very worried about the direct impacts of the storm itself if it makes landfall, but we see so many more injuries and sometimes more deaths after the storm because there’s so much danger out there.” , Criswell told “Fox News Sunday” anchor Shannon Bream.

“What I can say is that people need to stay vigilant right now,” Criswell continued. “Standing water brings with it all kinds of dangers.”

As officials continue to assess the wreckage, the two Florida senators said they support congressional funding to help the recovery, which would go beyond President Biden’s endorsement of statements by major Florida emergency and disaster that freed up federal resources.

But on CNN’s “State of the Union,” co-anchor Dana Bash asked Rubio why he didn’t vote for a relief bill in early 2013 after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey.

Rubio claimed the bill contained several provisions funding projects unrelated to the storm, though Bash chastised some of the senator’s examples.

The Florida Republican went on to say he believes an Ian relief bill shouldn’t have “pet projects” for other lawmakers.

“I will fight against the presence of pork,” Rubio said. “That’s the key. We shouldn’t have that in there because it undermines the ability to come back and do that in the future.

Both Rubio and Scott seemed willing to support a relief bill even if the funding was not offset to have a net zero effect on the federal budget.

“Everything you do, you would like to get paid,” Scott said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But we 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.”

News anchors also questioned officials whether it makes sense to rebuild destroyed communities in low-lying areas near water given climate change and regular hurricanes in the area.

But many officials seemed reluctant to abandon the communities, touting new building regulations and other strategies to lessen the impacts of future storms.

“You have to make tough decisions when you rebuild,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), whose condition was impacted by Ian, told NBC “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd.

“We had two 500-year floods less than 23 months apart,” Cooper continued. “And we know that is no longer true. We know these areas are vulnerable. So what we do is make sure we use strategies like elevation and even buyouts.

Criswell, the FEMA administrator, said reconstruction decisions should be up to individuals, and she urged them to understand the risks and purchase flood insurance.

“We have to make sure we have strong building codes because we have hazards everywhere,” she told moderator Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”

“We’ve seen inland damage in the state, and we need to have building codes that can ensure our properties can withstand the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events,” added Criswell.

Later in the show, Brennan asked Anderson, the mayor of Fort Myers, if the city should remove the development near the water. The hurricane made landfall near the town, and Anderson County faced some of the worst loss of life and property.

“No, we have good building codes,” Anderson replied. “Like I said, the newer homes have weathered the storm. So as people tear down and build new buildings, they will be subject to newer and stricter building codes. And in future storms, they should be able to weather them much better.

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