Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Hurricane Ian update press conference on Sept. 29. 2022. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Channel
UPDATE: At a 1:45 p.m. press conference in Charlotte County, Eric Silagy, with Florida Power & Light, reported that the utility company has been able to restore the power of some 700,000 customers since the storm hit.
In addition, Gov. Ron DeSantis stated that Sanibel Island off of Lee County got hit with a “biblical storm surge.” The island faces severe damage including a destroyed bridge to the island, cutting it off from the mainland.
Now a tropical storm, the center of Ian is headed toward the Atlantic Ocean and projected to approach the coast of South Carolina — and it’s still considered dangerous.
Life-threatening storm surges are predicted for Northeast Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, according to an 11 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center. And the tropical storm also continues to create flooding for the Central and Northeast Florida areas.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of students are preparing for school on Friday.
The Miami Herald reported that “Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe County school districts will be open Friday following a two-day closure because of Hurricane Ian, district superintendents announced Thursday morning.”
That said, 2.6 million homes and businesses are still out of power, according to the Florida Public Service Commission, and one of the major hurdles facing recovery will be getting everyone back online.
Areas such as southwest Charlotte and Lee counties were almost totally without power on Thursday morning, but as of noon, about 90 percent of those utility customers were still without power.
Other counties experiencing power outages from the storm include Sarasota (191,850 out), Manatee (132,916 out), Hillsborough (210,586 out), and Pinellas (197,485 out), according to the commission.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said at Thursday morning news conference that some of the power restoration in Charlotte and Lee counties need to be rebuilt and could take longer than repairs expected from typical storms.
“The Charlotte and Lee reconnects are really going to, likely, have to be rebuilding of that infrastructure…There are crews that are on their way down right now,” DeSantis said. “But that’s gonna be more than just connecting a power line back to a pole. The other counties, likely, are not going to require the extent of the structural rebuild, but of course, that’s going to be assessed as the day goes on.”
He did note that “fortunately, most of our school districts will be able to reopen on Friday or Monday.” The Phoenix previously reported that most of Florida’s school districts closed down in preparation for the storm.
Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, reminded Florida that Hurricane Ian’s impact is far from over.
“We have damaging winds and extreme rainfall expected throughout the Northeast Florida and Central Florida area. I wanted emphasize the storm still poses a major threat to the state including Central Florida right now,” he said.
He also noted that there are two unconfirmed fatalities reported, but it is unknown whether those deaths were directly related to the storm.
Gov. DeSantis, the First Lady Casey DeSantis and Guthrie will be conducting another press conference in Charlotte County this afternoon.
Casey DeSantis made her first appearance at one of the governor’s Ian-focused press conferences Thursday morning to promote a disaster relief fund that Floridians can donate for recovery efforts. It was activated Wednesday.
“So far, in less than 24-hours since we launched the fund, we’ve raised $1.6 million,” Ms. DeSantis announced Thursday morning.
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