Gov. DeSantis, Lee Co. officials defend the timing of evacuation ahead of Hurricane Ian

FORT MYERS – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mentioned Lee County officials acted appropriately after they issued their first necessary evacuations on Tuesday, lower than 24 hours earlier than Hurricane Ian made landfall on the state, and a day after a number of neighboring counties issued their orders.

“They were following the data, and you remember people were looking initially at the panhandle on Sunday,” the governor advised reporters in Fort Myers on Saturday, referring to the place the storm was anticipated to hit. “Then Monday came and people were thinking maybe north of Tampa Bay. When we went to bed Monday night, people were saying this is a direct hit on Tampa Bay, worst-case scenario for the state.”

“As that track started the shift south, and the computer models the next morning, they (Lee County officials) called for the evacuation, they opened their shelters and they responded very quickly to the data. But at the end of the day, Fort Myers and Naples, on Sunday, I think at the 11 a.m. advisory, 72 hours out, they weren’t even in the cone. That’s just the reality, so they followed it very closely,” he added.

The cone of uncertainty is what forecasters use to signify what’s more likely to be the heart of the storm. Storm impacts can — and sometimes do — prolong exterior the cone.

DeSantis’ Saturday feedback come amid criticism over how Lee County officials dealt with the evacuation orders. His remarks echoed what he mentioned at an earlier information convention in the county, the place he defended his administration’s response and mentioned communities “sprung into action” as predictions shifted the storm south.

Officials are dealing with mounting questions on why the first necessary evacuations weren’t ordered till a day earlier than Ian’s landfall — regardless of an emergency plan that means evacuations ought to have occurred earlier.

While the cone didn’t embody Fort Myers or Naples three days earlier than the storm made landfall, Ian made landfall Wednesday in Cayo Costa in Lee County, a degree which was inside the cone 72 hours earlier than the storm’s landfall and in all of the different dozens of cones issued for the storm.

Lee County issued a compulsory evacuation for Zones A and B — which embody the hard-hit coastal areas — on Tuesday at 5:20 p.m., in accordance with a tweet by the county authorities.

Other counties in the Ian’s path, equivalent to Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties spent the day Monday issuing evacuation orders. And even earlier than Hillsborough County issued the formal order, Tampa’s mayor was urging the public to evacuate.

“If you can leave, just leave now, and we will take care of your personal property,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor advised Kate Bolduan on CNN’s At This Hour round 11 a.m. Monday.

Lee County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan states a ten% probability of 6 toes or extra of water “would indicate the need” for hurricane evacuations in the most susceptible areas.

National Hurricane Center advisories, reviewed by CNN, make first point out of “4-7 feet of surge” for that space as early as 11 p.m. Sunday, three days earlier than landfall. That degree of surge was predicted for an space from Englewood to Bonita Beach, which incorporates the total Lee County coast.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, round the time of the first evacuation message, the NHC upped the storm surge forecast to 5-10 toes. And by 11 a.m., the forecast was expanded to 8-12 toes of storm surge for all of Lee County.

When pressed by CNN’s Dana Bash on State of the Union, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, declined to assign blame in Lee County, saying, “We’re going to look and find out” if correct evacuation procedures had been adopted.

“I think once we get through this, we do an assessment. What I’ve always tried to do as governor is say, okay, so what did we learn in each one of these,” he mentioned.

Lee Co. commissioner Briand Hamman mentioned officials pulled the set off as quickly as they noticed the storm pushing additional south. He mentioned when the county made that willpower to evacuate sure areas, shelters had been instantly opened and roughly 5 thousand individuals poured in.

He added that it was made clear that these in flood zones wanted to evacuate.

“This was a storm that you didn’t need to get very far away from. You really could’ve driven a half hour away to a high school, to a friend or family member’s house who wasn’t in the flood zone and you would’ve survived fine. That was the message Tuesday morning, the moment we called for evacuations. That was the message that I tried to get out. You don’t need to go to Georgia or even get onto I-75. Get to a friend or a family member’s house and ride this thing out,” he mentioned. 

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta Saturday, Fort Myers metropolis council member Liston Bochette was requested about the evacuation time he and fellow residents got. Fort Myers is in Lee County.

“Obviously, about one time in ten when they warn you, it happens,” Bochette advised Acosta. “Well, this is that one time. And people did not evacuate as they should have. And I think we’re lulled into … this is a little paradise corner of the world and we got lulled into a passive mindset that it’s not going to hit us.”

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