Good Monday morning.
Last week, we highlighted several reputable organizations that are looking for volunteers and donations to help those affected by Hurricane Ian. Many of those orgs had a statewide focus, but the people of Southwest Florida were hit particularly hard, so we want to make sure our readers know about these worthy causes.
— The Collier Community Foundation has activated its Collier Comes Together Disaster Relief Fund to help Hurricane Ian victims. Funds raised will be delivered to other Collier-based nonprofits and relief efforts with no administrative cost.
— The Harry Chaplin Food Bank’s Ft. Myers distribution center took a beating during the storm, but the organization is still hard at work delivering food and water to residents of Lee and surrounding counties. In addition to monetary donations, the organization is accepting food drop-offs and volunteers.
— Meals of Hope is living up to its name, working alongside World Central Kitchen to distribute hot meals to the people of Collier County.
— The Collaboratory, formerly known as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, has launched the SWFL Emergency Relief Fund in partnership with United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. All funds raised will be used to support Southwest Florida nonprofits helping Hurricane Ian victims.
— Our furry friends need help, too. The Humane Society Naples has been working around the clock to care for kittens and pups displaced by the storm. In addition to monetary donations, HSN is accepting food donations at its main shelter on Airport-Pulling Road. It also has Chewy and Amazon wish lists.
As the state continues to evaluate the toll from Hurricane Ian, it’s already become clear the storm inflicted significant loss of life and catastrophic damage, especially in the hardest hit areas of Southwest Florida.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis followed the playbook — he urged individuals to follow guidance from local officials pertaining to storm preparation, safety and, if necessary, evacuations; and he has since the storm passed been a fixture in communities suffering through the devastation — many feel the state was unprepared to protect people in the storm’s path.
Ahead of the storm’s landfall, and as meteorologists insisted the path was still unclear, DeSantis attended a Friday night football game. While the state was not yet sure just how — or where — the storm would impact Florida, it was clear most of the Sunshine State was about to get very dark, wet and windy.
Attending a high school football game may have projected strength for those in attendance, but for most it raised questions, most specifically whether that was the best use of his time as the state prepared for a potentially catastrophic hurricane on a path toward Florida, which was at the time, almost entirely in its crosshairs.
Add to that the delay it took for some Southwest Florida counties to begin issuing evacuation orders, and the Governor is facing a perception issue and further questions about whether officials gave their residents adequate time to safely evacuate from the storm’s path.
Lee County issued its evacuation order for vulnerable communities 13 hours after Pinellas County to the north. By the time some learned of an evacuation order, the weather was already deteriorating. After the storm passed, videos and images began surfacing showing just how much danger people were in — intense storm surge swept away entire structures and flooded streets near the top of palm trees; people in island communities had to be airlifted from their homes; a portion of the bridge to Sanibel Island was washed away.
DeSantis defended the timing of evacuation orders, noting the ever-changing path and the fact that orders were issued once Lee County was back within the cone of Ian’s projected path.
For his part, DeSantis has been calling, as he should, for federal aid to assist in swift recovery efforts. Yet some House Republicans voted against a stopgap measure, which was ultimately approved in both the House and the Senate, to free up $15 million in disaster relief aid. GOP Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz was among those opposing it, and on Sunday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, also a Republican, said he would vote against a broader Hurricane Ian relief bill if it had too much “pork” spending.
This raises additional questions for DeSantis, including how he feels about members of his own party threatening to vote against aid, and how he rectifies that with his own vote as a member of Congress against relief funding for Hurricane Sandy in 2013.
All of this comes under the microscope as the state, under DeSantis’ leadership, has not spent any of the My Safe Florida Home funding recently set aside by the Florida Legislature to help Floridians harden their homes to protect against hurricane damage. The program has yet to be implemented, according to the My Safe Home website, and instead includes a list of FAQs about the program, including explaining why it hasn’t been launched.
As DeSantis faces re-election next month against former Gov. Charlie Crist, he’ll have to begin answering some of these questions.
“Officials in Florida say shifting forecasts complicated the timing of evacuation orders” via Mitch Smith of The New York Times — Florida officials said uncertainty about Hurricane Ian’s direct path led to last-minute evacuation orders for residents of Fort Myers’ barrier islands. DeSantis emphasized that forecasters initially thought the storm would make landfall in Tampa Bay, but a last-minute shift brought the storm south to Lee and Sarasota counties. Kevin Guthrie, the state’s emergency management director, said that Lee County would have needed 48 hours to successfully evacuate. But two days before landfall, he said, forecasters were not expecting a direct hit there.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
WATCH: Gov. Ron DeSantis serving first responders at a Waffle House to aid recovery after Hurricane Ian pic.twitter.com/aB6RDwHqz9
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) October 1, 2022
God bless our incredible search and rescue teams – we cannot thank you enough for your service 🙏🏼
If you or someone you know needs assistance or a safety check, visit: https://t.co/HbeTMWCgts pic.twitter.com/Rmx5pWyhgs
— Casey DeSantis (@CaseyDeSantis) October 2, 2022
—@GiorgiaMeloni: My deepest condolences for the victims of the #hurricaneIan and my warmest support to @GovRonDeSantis and the people of #Florida for the immense work of reconstruction they will face from now on. God bless you
—@AGAshleyMoody: We are not going to look like Chicago or New York where we’re letting people out in 24 hours so they can go back and loot another home. That will not be tolerated here.
—@LtGRussellHorne: Typically post-storm Looting BS If ya don’t get food and water to people they will go survival mode and start looking for it. They must teach every Gov. the looting speech. Will commit troops to security when they should be helping
We will always be there to support our neighbors, and get through this together. pic.twitter.com/7sjoY4Eial
— Eric Lynn (@EricLynnFL) October 1, 2022
— Michele Rayner-Goolsby (she/they) (@micheleforfl) October 2, 2022
Severe river flooding with slow motion disaster from Ian along the Peace River in Arcadia today on boat with local delivering supplies to communities cutoff by the record-breaking flooding. The river crested above 27’. Please support Peace River Canoe Outpost for canoe tours pic.twitter.com/PLD40ulKx9
— Reed Timmer, PhD (@ReedTimmerAccu) October 2, 2022
— Josh Gerstein (@joshgerstein) October 1, 2022
—@MDixon55: The last time Florida Democrats had control of the state Senate, Coolio’s (RIP) “Gangsta’s Paradise” topped the charts
— DAYS UNTIL —
Supervisors of Elections vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 3; 22-23 NHL season begins — 4; deadline to register for General Election — 8; WPEC televised debate in Florida Governor’s race — 9; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Senate) — 15; NBA season tips off — 15; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 18; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 21; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 22; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 22; City & State Florida Digital Summit — 24; Early voting begins for General Election — 26; 2022 General Election — 36; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 39; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 39; FITCon 2022 begins — 45; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 45; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 49; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 52; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 61; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 61; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 64; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 74; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 90; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 121; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 137; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 138; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 155; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 172; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 197; 2023 Session Sine Die — 214; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 214; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 242; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 291; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 396; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 410; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 543; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 662; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 662; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 767; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 945.
— TOP STORIES —
Breaking overnight — “Death toll soars to 76 in Florida after Hurricane Ian demolished entire communities” via CNN
“Florida deaths rise amid struggle to recover from Ian” via Rebecca Santana and Meg Kinnard of The Washington Post — Florida, with nearly four dozen reported dead, was hit hardest by the Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to make landfall in the United States. Flooded roadways and washed-out bridges to barrier islands left many people isolated amid limited cellphone service and a lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity and the internet.
DeSantis said Saturday that multibillionaire businessman Elon Musk was providing some 120 Starlink satellites to “help bridge some of the communication issues.” Starlink, a satellite-based internet system created by Musk’s SpaceX, will deliver high-speed connectivity.
As of Sunday morning, nearly 850,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity, down from a peak of 2.67 million.
At least 54 people were confirmed dead: 47 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
More than 1,000 people were rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwestern coast alone, Daniel Hokanson, a four-star general and head of the National Guard, told The Associated Press while airborne to Florida.
In Washington, the White House announced that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden would travel to Florida on Wednesday. But a brief statement did not release any details of the planned visit.
Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government has been focused on getting resources to needy victims in Florida.
“Destruction and desperation: See Hurricane Ian damage city by city across Florida” via Jeff Burlew, Kate Cimini, Sergio Bustos and Derek Gilliam of the Tallahassee Democrat — Less than 24 hours after Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa just west of Fort Myers, dramatic search-and-rescue efforts — some by helicopters and airboats — were still underway.
DeSantis said Thursday morning there were only two unconfirmed storm-related deaths, though he said more “clarity” would come over time.
“The damage done is historic,” DeSantis said. “We have never seen a flood like this. We have never seen a storm surge of this magnitude.”
— Fort Myers: ‘Barely anything left’: Emergency officials in Fort Myers Beach told the Tampa Bay Times that not everyone abided by evacuation orders and that they expected to find bodies as they searched through the rubble. “Absolute devastation,” said Fire Marshall Jennifer Campbell. “There’s barely anything left.”
The causeway to Sanibel Island and the Pine Island bridge was rendered impassable and in need of structural repairs, DeSantis said.
Fort Myers Beach, along with Lee County’s other barrier islands, took the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s assault on Florida’s coastline. Its commercial center was decimated.
— Bonita Springs: Tears after a labor of love lost: In Bonita Springs, some structures were flattened by the storm surge, including Doc’s Beach House.
The walls on Doc’s Beach House caved in when the storm surge went back out, said Charlie Cibula, the owner’s son, who said his father has owned it since 1987.
Doc’s Beach House also suffered a propane leak, and Lee County sheriff’s deputies were turning residents back, urging them to stay away and stay safe. The smell of gas wafted through the air and was noticeable blocks away.
Jason Crosser, who owns 8-Bit Hall of Fame, a classic video game store on Bonita Beach Road Southwest near the curve, lost everything.
— Naples: ‘A moat around City Hall’: Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann told MSNBC on Thursday that local officials were caught by surprise by Hurricane Ian’s massive floodwaters that rushed through her southwestern Florida coastal city of nearly 22,000 residents.
“Unfortunately, we prepared for the winds but not for the floods,” said Heitman, who said flooding in the city’s downtown area was between 7 and 9 inches.
City firefighters and emergency rescue personnel, she said, have been busy saving people trapped in their cars or homes due to the high floodwaters. She added that most city residents followed the advice of city and state officials to evacuate flood-prone areas.
— Venice: Watching roofs blow off and a local landmark blasted: While the fear had been that storm surge would plunge Venice under feet of water, it appears Ian’s worst damage has come from winds in Venice.
At the Municipal Airport Mobile Home Park, many trailers had extensive roof damage. Cotton-candy pink insulation and twisted metal roof debris was strewn throughout the property. Venice Municipal Airport, about half-mile from the mobile home park, had severe damage to several hangers.
— North Port: Eight hours of destruction with a ‘horrendous’ soundtrack: George and Sharon Fink weathered Hurricane Ian in their manufactured home in North Port; their house was one of few spared.
“The noise was horrendous,” Sharon, 74, said. “The noise reminded me of being at a stock car race, and the engines are revving. It was like that for like eight hours.”
Many of the homes were built in the 1970s, but the couple purchased a new model built by Jacobson about six years ago meant to withstand hurricane-force winds. Law enforcement asked residents of the park to evacuate, but they decided to stay because of the confidence in the integrity of their home.
— Charlotte County: Water gushing into a hospital ICU: Ian swamped a Florida hospital from both above and below, the storm surge flooding its lower-level emergency room while fierce winds tore part of its fourth-floor roof from its intensive care unit.
Water gushed down from above onto the ICU, forcing staff to evacuate the hospital’s sickest patients — some on ventilators — to other floors. Staff members resorted to towels and plastic bins to try to mop up the sodden mess, the AP reported.
— Orange County: Ian deluges downtown Orlando and surrounding areas: More than a foot of rainfall sent floodwaters into downtown Orlando and across the community.
Local firefighters and law enforcement rescued about 30 people from Orlo Vista, a low-lying area 5 miles west of downtown Orlando, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel.
— Punta Gorda: Riding out the storm surrounded by couch cushions on a tarped hospital bed: In Punta Gorda, Ian ripped down trees and power lines and partially collapsed at least two buildings. As much as 7 feet of storm surge inundated the small town.
Renee Smith rode the hurricane out under her kitchen table, taking shelter only after making sure her husband, Christopher, who is paralyzed and fighting prostate cancer, was safe and secure. She said she tied blankets and a tarp to his hospital bed, surrounded him with cushions and put a life jacket on him “so he wouldn’t drown” in a flood.
“Facing a dire storm forecast in Florida, officials delayed evacuation” via By Frances Robles, Mike Baker, Serge F. Kovaleski and Lazaro Gamio of The New York Times — While officials across Florida’s western coastline heeded warnings from forecasters, emergency managers in Lee County held off on evacuations as Hurricane Ian approached. Lee County officials pondered during the day whether to tell people to flee, but then decided to see how the forecast evolved overnight. The delay may have contributed to catastrophic consequences that are still coming into focus as the death toll continues to climb.
“Floridians hit by hurricane face gridlock, flooding, extensive damage” via Tim Craig, Paul Sonne and Matthew Brown of The Washington Post — The Florida Medical Examiners Commission said late Saturday the storm resulted in 44 deaths, most due to drowning. Many of the officially recorded deaths were among senior citizens, reflecting a storm that has wielded an outsize impact on the elderly given the area is popular with retirees. The storm is estimated to have caused more than $60 billion in property loss in Florida alone, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. The storm has proved particularly difficult for elderly Floridians with medical conditions. Across southwest Florida, deliveries of relief supplies were hampered by road closings. With I-75 closed, oil tankers, trucks carrying boats, and cars transporting relief workers were funneled onto one-lane streets, creating hours-long backups just to go a few miles.
“Joe Biden, First Lady to visit Florida to see Ian’s devastation and massive recovery efforts” via Sergio Bustos of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Florida next week to see firsthand the widespread damage caused by Hurricane Ian, and the recovery efforts of thousands of local, state and federal workers and volunteers. The Bidens will travel to Puerto Rico on Monday and then head to Florida on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted Saturday night. Hurricane Fiona slammed Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 18. “It’s not just a crisis for Florida,” said Biden Friday from the White House. “This is an American crisis. We’re all in this together.”
“Ian’s wrath seen from the sky: old-timers’ warnings were right” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — At least since Hurricane Donna decades ago, old-timers have warned of Florida places unsuitable for homes. Because one day, a mammoth soaker of a storm would swing by to explain why. It would rain and rain, and even shake stuff from trees, but mostly rain. Low places would vanish. Inundation would edge up to medium elevations. High ground would be stranded. From a helicopter over Central Florida awash in the first fully blue sky in days, it was evident that Ian was that soaker. But while the region had 200,000 residents in Donna’s day in 1960, it now has 2 million. The old-timers’ voices must have drowned in the population influx.
— AFTERMATH —
“‘Like the Gulf came in’: Hurricane Ian flooded this historically Black Naples neighborhood” via Omar Rodriguez Ortiz of the Miami Herald — Hurricane Ian’s storm surge pushed water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Gordon River and the canals that surround almost the entire east side of River Park. When residents saw the water creeping in on Wednesday, they say, it was already too late. “The water came in from both sides,” Willie Sirmons said, “so we were trapped.” In a neighborhood where residents were already wary of being priced out, efforts to pick up the pieces after Ian are colliding with fears about what the future holds. Sirmons has been living with his wife in River Park for over a decade, but he has been in the neighborhood at least 20 years. Behind their house is one canal and another is behind their neighbors’ houses across the street.
“Hurricane Ian aftermath: Tour of damage shows parts of Naples look like ‘a war zone’” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — In a drive around the city, Naples Police Lieutenant Bryan McGinn pointed to some of the worst and costliest damage caused by Hurricane Ian. On Friday, he whizzed around the city streets, as much as he could, driving through sludge, stopping at every dark traffic light, and dodging cleanup and repair crews and a slew of curious onlookers, wanting to see the destruction for themselves. One of the worst hit areas by the Category 4 storm? Gulf Shore Boulevard North, where the water had finally receded enough to have a better look at Ian’s wrath.
“For areas along the Peace River and South Polk, Hurricane Ian ‘was a little worse than Irma’” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — Some of the worst damage from the hurricane could be seen at the Hammock Lake Estates mobile home park on U.S. 17 in Fort Meade. A white trailer with sky-blue trim had been thrust about 4 feet above its pad, dislodged by the roots of a toppled oak tree. Rick and Angie Morris endured the hurricane with minimal damage to their mobile home. “It was a little worse than Irma,” said Rick Morris as the generator whirred beside him. “I heard my neighbor’s roof come off and the wind blowing like crazy. It was driving rain through all of these windows.” Morris said he and his wife endured eight days without power following Hurricane Irma, and he seemed prepared for another long wait for service to be restored.
“Hurricane Ian blasted Pine Island like never before. The community is sticking together” via Joey Flechas and Matias J. Ocner of the Miami Herald — The beer, at once celebratory and mournful, flowed freely in St. James on Friday. The town is one where unassuming “flip-flop millionaires” raise glasses with low-income locals every day. Forty-eight hours after Ian flung a 40-foot catamaran onto someone’s house, laid waste to some mobile homes and swamped living rooms, the toast was to surviving. And hopefully, one day again, to thriving. “We’re not all in the same boat,” said a woman grilling burgers outside Low Key Tiki. The local American Legion Post 136 was emptying freezers and inviting the island to have burgers. “We’re all in the same ocean.”
“Wife in ‘shock’ after watching disabled husband die in Hurricane Ian floodwaters” via Justin Rohrlich of Daily Beast — Alice Argo, 72, says she is in shock after watching her husband, Jerry, 67, drown in floodwaters brought in by Hurricane Ian. The pair, who got married just last year, were in their home in New Smyrna Beach when it began to flood. The two hurried to round up their pets, and while Alice was in another room, Jerry, who was disabled, suddenly slipped from the stool he was sitting on. He fell to the floor and became completely submerged except for his head. She was unable to pull him out of the water, calling emergency services for help, which finally arrived 90 minutes later. Rescuers were unable to revive Jerry. Alice, who badly injured her back in the ordeal, was taken to a local storm shelter with her dogs. On Friday, she managed to get to her daughter’s place, which has suffered extensive damage of its own without power and utilities.
“‘Glad to be alive’: Punta Gorda mobile home park decimated. One resident, 81, huddled in closet to ride out storm” via Kathryn Varn of The Florida Times-Union — Susan DiGregorio crawled into her guest room closet, pulled a giant teddy bear over her body and began to pray. The 81-year-old resident of Hurricane Ian’s ground zero had plans to evacuate with a neighbor from Bay Palms Mobile Home Park. But he told her he had come down with COVID-19. To DiGregorio, catching the virus would be a death sentence at her age. So, she stayed, taking cover in the closet, listening to the screams of ripping aluminum as her roof came off, and making peace with a death that never came. “I’m glad to be alive,” she said. “I’m glad to see the sun. I’m glad to hear the birds that made it through the storm.”
“At a Florida trailer park, survivors speak of Ian’s wrath” via Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press — Many mobile homes in North Fort Myers are crumpled and splintered. Hurricane Ian pulled, twisted and bent their metal roofs and broke apart their wooden structures. “I literally watched my house disappear with everything in it, right before my eyes,” said resident James Burdette. The winds were so strong, at one point, he felt his house being lifted off the ground — up a few inches (centimeters) and then dropped forcefully back down.
“Popular Florida beachfront district suffers extensive damage from Hurricane Ian” via Alex Lang of Knewz — Preliminary damage footage has shown extensive damage to the Times Square promenade in Fort Myers. The area is covered in debris and local stores and shops are ravaged by Category 4 Hurricane Ian, which directly hit the area. The Times Square promenade is one of the most popular beach districts in Fort Myers. The plaza was set to undergo renovations in 2022.
“‘What we love most, we were hurt by most’: As search and rescue underway in Fort Myers Beach, a long and uncertain road lay ahead” via Angie DiMichele and Amy Beth Bennett of the Miami Herald — All that’s left of Ana Kapel’s home not far from the once lively Times Square of Fort Myers Beach are her porch steps. At The Pier Peddler, a gift shop that Kapel managed, she gazed at the wreckage of the building that stood there on Fifth Street since 1985, talking with her friend Candy Miller, a local muralist, about what happened to neighbors whose lives were claimed by Hurricane Ian. “Your landlord, last I heard, she was in the bathtub and the walls were crumbling around her,” Miller told Kapel, in shock, Friday afternoon.
“‘Hell on earth’: Wauchula residents face floods and fire in aftermath of Hurricane Ian” via Staci DaSilva of WFLA — Between 15 and 20 inches of rain are estimated to have fallen in Wauchula during Hurricane Ian, sending the Peace River several feet over flood levels. The flooding, which residents have called historic, has invaded homes and caused other problems, including fires from downed power lines. The residents of Wauchula are working together to deal with fire and floods.
“‘I’ll miss it’: The roof came off a destroyed Englewood business and broke the owner’s heart” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Teresa Karaffa worked as a dental hygienist for 31 years in Ohio but decided to give it up when she moved to Florida in 2014 with her husband Dave. It was Dave who told her “you need a little space where you can go and find happiness.” “I walked into the soap company that day and it felt good and we had a little bit of money in our pocket, and we bought it,” Karaffa said. Karaffa’s destroyed business is emblematic of the devastation Ian wrought in Englewood, where many properties suffered significant roof damage. The community was the closest in Sarasota County to where Ian made landfall and sustained some of the worst impacts.
“‘In panic mode.’ Fear of not enough water, food, gas in Florida’s coastal towns after Ian” via Michelle Kaufman and Joan Crissos of the Miami Herald — While most Floridians woke up to a normal Sunday with plans for church, family gatherings, and football watching, many people in the Southwest Florida coast, the areas most ravaged by Hurricane Ian, spent the day growing weary, frustrated, and angry as they waited for electricity, gas, water, food, and other basic needs. “We do not have any help in St. James City, there are so many people here that have completely lost everything like elsewhere,” Denise Martinez posted. A woman on the Fort Myers Beach Facebook page wrote: “I’m looking for my 96-year-old grandmother, Julia Rodriguez.”
“Highway Patrol: Avoid using U.S. 17 to get to SW Florida due to hurricane closures” via The Arcadian — The Florida Highway Patrol is telling motorists, truckers and those bringing relief resources to hurricane-ravaged southwest Florida to avoid using U.S. 17. The roadway is suffering from a number of closures and restrictions stemming from Hurricane Ian’s flooding, wind damage and widespread power outages. FHP said Sunday morning that U.S. 17 was closed between Carter Street and Fletcher Street. from Sweetwater and State Road 70 and from Tennessee Street and Sweetwater. U.S. 17 connects to Punta Gorda and southwest Florida from Lakeland and Orlando. Interior and some central and eastern areas of the state saw significant floods, power outages and down trees from the rampaging hurricane. That has also restricted roadways.
“I-75 reopens in south Sarasota County” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — According to tweets from the Florida Highway Patrol, northbound I-75 has reopened at mile marker 182 (Sumter Boulevard), and southbound I-75 at mile marker 182 is in the process of reopening. The I-75 closure in Sarasota County between Exits 193 and 179 has concluded; all lanes of the Interstate have reopened as of 4 p.m.
— THE RESPONSE —
“DeSantis waives unemployment assistance requirements for those affected by Ian” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — DeSantis has waived several requirements to receive unemployment aid for Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Sunday. Now, Hurricane Ian survivors will temporarily be able to bypass the work search reporting, waiting a week, and Employ Florida registration requirements for re-employment assistance claims. The waiver applies to those in FEMA disaster-declared counties. Additionally, Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to Florida businesses and residents in FEMA disaster-declared counties whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a direct result of Hurricane Ian.
“Florida Disaster Fund raises more than $20 million in 48 hours after launch” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Within 48 hours of its activation, The Florida Disaster Fund has raised more than $20 million in donations for the communities that experienced Hurricane Ian’s destruction, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced Saturday. Major donations have poured in from 52 different corporations and individuals across the state and nation, including Microsoft, UnitedHealth and Goldman Sachs, to the state’s official private fund established specifically for Hurricane Ian victims. In-kind donations are going to make life easier for those who are now facing life with little more than the clothes on their backs and what they could stuff in their cars.
“High-water rescues underway in North Port for residents stranded in homes by rising Hurricane Ian floodwaters” via Allyson Henning of WFLA — Hurricane Ian is long-gone in Sarasota County, but many residents are still feeling its impacts. Aside from the extensive wind damage and power outages, residents in North Port are dealing with rising floodwaters days after the storm. Officials spent Friday performing high-water rescues in the city’s most flood-prone communities, delivering hundreds of residents to dry ground. City Manager Jerome Fletcher believes there could still be thousands in need of help.
“Some Fort Myers Beach residents frustrated, confused by Hurricane Ian emergency response” via Hannah Morse and Andres Leiva of the Fort Myers News-Press — “Is there a shuttle?” Karen Coderre asked anyone who would listen. With the afternoon sun beating upon her, she walked down Mantanzas Pass Bridge in a daze. Someone had given her a ride to the bridge. She didn’t know who. She rode out Hurricane Ian at her home on Eucalyptus Court, where she lived for just eight months. The water during Hurricane Ian got up to her neck, she said. Now, almost two days after the storm, she was looking for a shuttle, but there were none yet. Some LeeTran buses would arrive within the hour. “I’m never coming back,” she said.
“FPL: Most in SWFL should have power back by next weekend but for some it could be months” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — It may be months before some Southwest Florida coastal areas hammered by Hurricane Ian have their power restored. “We are repairing in most places outside of, right along the barrier islands and the beaches and the immediate coastline of Southwest Florida,” FPL CEO Eric Silagy said Saturday night. “Those areas are going to be rebuilding, and unfortunately for those who live there, we are looking at weeks or months.” Lee County had 166,000 FPL addresses without power Saturday night while the Collier tally was 77,650. When including other utilities, Collier had 97,819 unable to turn on their lights, or 37% overall. And in Lee, it was 341,337, or 72%.
“Thousands of Tampa Bay homes remain without power after Ian” via Olivia George of the Tampa Bay Times — Four days since Hurricane Ian smashed into Southwest Florida, about 26,000 customers remain without power across the Tampa Bay region. Tampa Electric Co. reported more than 24,000 were without power as of 9:50 a.m. Sunday across the company’s coverage area, which covers 2,000 square miles, including Hillsborough County and parts of Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Tampa Electric plans to have power restored to most customers by Sunday night, according to a statement released Saturday, though some areas of eastern Hillsborough and Polk County may not have power until Monday night. In Pinellas County, at least 2,400 remained without power Sunday morning, according to Duke Energy’s online outage map.
“In Fort Myers, Black residents fear hurricane aid will bypass their neighborhoods” via Margo Snipe of Capital B — For residents of Fort Myers’ predominantly Black Dunbar neighborhood, recovering from the near-Category 5 storm will require a lot of do-it-yourself handiwork. But they also expect to wait on insurance companies, power companies and tree companies to respond. Neighborhoods in Fort Myers remain extremely divided by race, according to federal housing data, which shows segregation has increased since 2010. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the bulk of the emergency response was being ushered to the coast, where boats were stacked on top of rubble and homes were completely decimated. In Dunbar, where most homes were still standing, residents worried about food and water supply, the stability of the roofs that still appeared intact, and down power lines.
“SpaceX donation will boost connectivity of hurricane-affected Floridians” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Being able to get online has become almost as important as having power, so Elon Musk got a shoutout Saturday from DeSantis for helping Hurricane Ian victims feel less disconnected. Some companies, such as Xfinity-Comcast and Charter Communications, made their hotspots free to people in hurricane-ravaged areas. But the Tesla and SpaceX founder’s effort was mentioned at both DeSantis’ Saturday news conferences. Thirty SpaceX Starlink units are now in use in Lee and Charlotte counties and 120 more are coming, DeSantis said. These devices beam down satellite internet access from a 13-mile radius, supporting 1,000 users at any given time.
“Amscot founder donates $1M to state hurricane relief fund” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Amscot Financial founder Ian MacKechnie is donating $1 million to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Ian. MacKechnie and his wife, Jean, are taking the money from their personal funds to go to the Florida Disaster Fund. The fund was launched Thursday in the wake of Hurricane Ian’s Wednesday landfall to work with public, private and other nongovernmental organizations bringing relief efforts to areas the hurricane devastated, said to have caused “staggering” damage estimated in the tens of billions. In the fund’s first 24 hours, it raised $12 million in contributions to help people in need.
“The best of humanity: Jimmy Patronis emotionally describes Hurricane Ian rescue efforts” via MSNBC — “So what we’ve gotten is we have eight teams in Florida, that’s our urban search and rescue teams,” Patronis said in an interview on MSNBC. “All eight of those are in place right now. We’ve got an additional three teams, plus, coming in from other states. Virginia has been in Florida, Texas is on the way, Ohio, so we’ve got over 1,000 urban search and rescue teams working 12-hour shifts … they’ve touched over 6,000 dwellings … I’m saying, you know, how is your team handling it? They are so upbeat, and I’m thinking the opposite. They said, Jimmy, we are saving lives. He says you have no idea how we feed off of that. When you save lives, we pull people out of the rubble, and they are going into cardiac arrest; we save their life, we get them to safety. So, we are seeing, in that case, some of the best of humanity.”
“FSU drone team, FAMU faculty assist with Hurricane Ian search and rescue efforts” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — From search and rescue efforts to mental wellness for first responders, Florida State University’s drone team and Florida A&M University’s faculty are doing their part in helping southwest Florida during Hurricane Ian’s disastrous aftermath. FSU’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy drone team was on standby at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Wednesday before being dispatched to Cape Coral and then to Naples Thursday. The team is controlling remotely piloted aircraft that fly over areas affected by Hurricane Ian’s Category 4 landfall for urban search and rescue purposes.
— HURRICANE STORYLINES —
“In 36 hours, Ian blew up from storm to Cat 4. Climate change may make that more common” via Nicolas Rivero of the Miami Herald — The rapid intensification of Hurricane Ian, which turned the tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane in less than two days, is a dangerous phenomenon that may become more common with climate change. “On average, we’ve seen multiple studies that show the conditions in the North Atlantic basin are providing more opportunities for storms to intensify,” said Kieran Bhatia, a former climate researcher at Princeton University.
“Hurricane Ian underwent an eyewall change, turning a disheveled mess into a monster” via Kimberly Miller of The Palm Beach Post — Hurricane Ian was a collision of every ingredient needed to build a leviathan storm of record magnitude. But there was one variable, a capricious event in the raucous center of the cyclone, that compounded the rage. Late Tuesday, Ian underwent what meteorologists call an eyewall replacement cycle, in which the spiraling storm center contracts under intense pressure until it can no longer take the burden and collapses. In some cases, the still-mysterious phenomenon can disrupt a storm, allowing dry air to push its way into the very heart of the cyclone, causing it to weaken or dissolve entirely.
“Escaping Hurricane Ian” via Caroline Mimbs Nyce of The Atlantic — Ahead of Hurricane Ian’s landfall, Florida officials ordered the evacuation of about 2.5 million people. Xilei Zhao, an evacuations researcher, spoke about the efficiency, or inefficiency, of the evacuations. In super-prepared communities, as soon as they hear evacuation orders, they will leave immediately, and everyone will work together, she said. But in the past several years, Florida has welcomed new residents who have never experienced hurricanes before, and usually, Zhao says, they calculate their risks differently. Cost is a significant factor in determining evacuations, with some families unable to afford to do so. This makes local shelters vital.
“What Hurricane Ian could mean to Florida’s struggling property insurance industry” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Even before Hurricane Ian made landfall, headlines were blaring that the storm would spell doom for Florida’s struggling homeowners insurance market. Just this year, six property insurers have become insolvent, including one declared insolvent on the same day Ian formed as a tropical storm. State insurance regulators are closely monitoring dozens of other companies on the fritz, and homeowners’ premiums have risen to the highest in the nation. “This is a test for the entire insurance industry,” said Michael Carlson, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, referencing Hurricane Ian. The federation represents State Farm, Allstate, Farmers and Progressive. “This looks like major devastation.”
“Hurricane Ian: Damage will drive insurance rates even higher, cripple industry” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — With early predictions of $50 billion in damage from Hurricane Ian, experts worry whether the state’s struggling property insurance system will become another casualty of the storm and lead to even higher premiums. If it fails, the cost will be passed on to all Florida homeowners, not just those who suffered damage, because of assessments levied on them to cover the losses. “We’re relying on a strategy of hope, and that hasn’t played out,” State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who has tried to push for strict insurance and litigation reforms to rein in the spiraling costs.
“Getting rid of these business tax breaks could bring a bit of relief to Floridians struggling to pay for property insurance” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — The more insurance and reinsurance that the state of Florida offers itself, the more claims it will have to pay itself following a major hurricane or a series of storms. And if Citizens or the Cat Fund run out of money to pay those claims, they ultimately make up the shortfall by adding an emergency assessment to virtually everyone’s insurance policies. But there’s a way we can ease this potential pain a bit. Because right now not everybody has to pay this hurricane tax. Specifically, businesses don’t have to pay the tax on their workers’ compensation insurance — thanks to an exemption that was carved into state law 30 years ago. Removing the exemption for workers comp insurance would add $4 billion or so to the Citizens and Cat Fund tax base — expanding that tax base from roughly $55 billion to $59 billion.
“Beware of scams, be patient, and other tips on filing Hurricane Ian insurance claims” via Mary Ellen Klas and Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — State insurance officials say help is on the way for home and business owners impacted by Hurricane Ian. But officials are also warning those impacted to be wary of disreputable claims adjusters, lawyers and roofing contractors who are looking to exploit survivors. As of Friday, insurance companies reported an estimated $474 million in losses for 62,000 property insurance claims from Hurricane Ian. That number is only expected to grow as damage continues to be assessed. For those wanting to make claims, officials recommend patience as relief operations are still in progress.
— 2022 —
“Once sprawling, congressional battle maps are shrinking to key races” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — Sen. Rick Scott grew boastful about how GOP candidates were faring in the most critical races, eventually predicting a “52-plus” Senate majority with a couple of victories deep in Democratic territory. Then the Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee caught himself, realizing that it’s still a reach to think about Republican wins in blue-leaning states like Colorado and Washington. His committee has yet to put a large infusion of cash into an ad campaign in either state. “You’ve got to really work on allocating your resources — to where you get the biggest bang. It is work, so you do your best,” Scott told reporters Thursday.
“Florida Dep’t of State delays campaign reporting, considers contingencies after Hurricane Ian” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Hurricane Ian has devastated the Southwest Florida coast, and state officials now must figure out how to best administer the upcoming Midterm Election. County elections officials must send vote-by-mail ballots to voters between 40 days and 33 days before an election. This year, that window for the General Election falls between this past Thursday and the upcoming Thursday. Secretary of State Cord Byrd said he was considering possible responses to the damage, which is likely delaying election preparations at local Supervisors of Elections offices. Byrd also suspended the filing deadline for campaign finance reports until Oct. 7.
“Annette Taddeo campaign says $1.7M in ‘last-minute’ GOP airtime buys proves CD 27 is a tossup” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A super PAC tied to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy just reserved nearly $1.7 million worth of broadcast space for English- and Spanish-language ads to help U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar win re-election in Miami. Now, the campaign team for Salazar’s opponent, Taddeo, is trying to frame that buy as evidence Taddeo has Salazar on the ropes. The money kicks in on Oct. 11, just after the $516,000 Salazar spent this cycle on broadcast space runs out. Taddeo, meanwhile, has spent $557,000 on radio and TV airtime. Democratically aligned groups have spent $861,000 for added broadcast space.
“Senate GOP bashes Tallahassee paper, League of Women Voters over debate in full-page ad” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Corey Simon, the Republican candidate for Senate District 3, won’t participate in a debate with Sen. Loranne Ausley set up by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper and the League of Women Voters. That was made clear in a full-page advertisement the Florida Senatorial Campaign Committee took out in the Democrat’s Sunday edition. The ad calls the debate “a liberal farce designed to fool voters.” It calls the League an “overtly partisan” organization and highlights several of their positions on issues, such as gun control, abortion, school choice and immigration, which align with liberals and the Democratic Party in general.
“Opponent blasts GOP candidate Amesty for living in home owned by religious nonprofit” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Democratic state House candidate Allie Braswell is criticizing his Republican opponent Carolina Amesty for living and registering to vote in a Windermere home owned by a nonprofit religious organization, Central Christian University, where Amesty is vice president. As a nonprofit and religious group, Central Christian is exempt from income taxes and most property taxes. But Amesty argues the home is designated for the president of the university, her father Juan Amesty, who founded the organization, and she lives there with her parents.
— STATEWIDE —
“Historic storm surge. Record flooding. Ian’s lesson in the rising risk of hurricanes” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Hurricane Ian came ashore with devastating near-Category 5 winds that peeled the roofs off homes and uprooted trees. But for most of Florida, the greatest hurricane threat was the water. The combination of epic storm surge along the coast and unprecedented rains inland flooded homes and caused billions of dollars in damage across a huge swath of the state. It’s the risk meteorologists have been sounding the alarm on for years and the impact that scientists can most clearly say is made worse by climate change. Final tallies aren’t in yet, but it’s clear Ian brought historic levels of storm surge with some spots seeing at least 7 feet of water above dry land.
“Much of its infrastructure wrecked by Ian; Traversing Florida will be a tough ride” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Hurricane Ian ravaged Florida’s infrastructure, from closing airports across the state to shutting down 33 highways and bridges, to widespread power outages. FEMA has dispatched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on a fix with the Florida National Guard available to help if needed. The Florida Department of Transportation has also dispatched 100 engineers, working in teams of two, to inspect bridges. The agency deployed 1,300 workers to clear roads of storm debris; as of Friday morning, they’d cleared 1,100 miles of roadway. But there is still so much work to be done.
“The story behind DeSantis’ migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard” via Edgar Sandoval, Miriam Jordan, Patricia Mazzei and J. David Goodman of The New York Times — The effort to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard appeared to have been far less organized than the more sweeping program created by Greg Abbott in Texas that already had bused more than 11,000 migrants from the state to three northern, Democratic-run cities — Washington, New York and Chicago. But the goal for both Governors was the same: draw attention to the large number of unauthorized migrants arriving daily at the southern border and force Democrats to deal with the migrants whom they profess a desire to welcome. In the case of the flights to Martha’s Vineyard, Florida state records show that an airline charter company, Vertol Systems, was paid $615,000 on Sept. 8 and $950,000 less than two weeks later. The first payment was for “project 1” and the second payment for “projects two and three.” No state contracts detailing the spending have been made public, and little has been said by the DeSantis administration about the role played by state transportation officials in arranging or coordinating the flights.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“White House won’t return DeSantis storm praise after claiming Gov gushed about Biden” via Steven Nelson of the New York Post — White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre refused to assess DeSantis’ performance in responding to Hurricane Ian on Friday — despite President Biden’s earlier claim that the Republican leader praised him. When asked if the President thinks DeSantis has handled the response to Ian well so far, Jean-Pierre said she couldn’t speak to the specifics of the conversation, and “They are going to continue to coordinate. They are going to continue to have conversations.”
“What happens when Biden actually has to go out and campaign?” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Voters have warm feelings about candidates who come to meet them in person. So, candidates for President get herded from live event to live event, pausing in between to address small matters like campaign strategy or policy positions. Age is an obvious handicap in this endeavor — though, also obviously, not a fatal one. His opponent is going to be out there on the stump, whipping up voter enthusiasm and proving they have the stamina for the job. If Biden doesn’t follow suit, he will be conceding them an edge — especially since they will not be shy about using that fact to raise questions about his fitness.
“What Biden’s memory lapse about the late Jackie Walorski really told us” via Jill Lawrence of USA Today — Biden calling out late Congresswoman Walorski during the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health seemed like a memory fail. And, while it’s unfortunate he made the mistake, it’s worth noting that he was trying to commend her work, crossing party lines for a Congresswoman who voted to object to his presidential victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania. After a Donald Trump presidency that lacked empathy, it’s worth noting that Biden demonstrated a generosity and professionalism also present in Biden’s Tuesday conversation with Gov. DeSantis in response to Ian.
“Seven American prisoners in Venezuela are freed in swap, Biden says” via Michael Wilner and Antonio Maria Delgado of the Miami Herald — Seven U.S. citizens imprisoned in Venezuela are free and returning home, Biden said on Saturday, a major breakthrough in U.S. government efforts to free Americans wrongfully detained abroad. Jorge Toledo, Tomeu Vadell, Alirio Zambrano, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Matthew Heath, and Osman Khan were let go by the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro, Biden administration officials said. In exchange, the President agreed to free Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, two nephews of Maduro who were convicted on drug charges in the United States.
“For Puerto Rico, apparently a disaster declaration doesn’t matter” via Ian Seavey for the Orlando Sentinel — On Sept. 21, Biden issued a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico to energize relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Fiona’s destruction. This supposedly freed up millions of federal dollars for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use in aiding the island in its recovery. To view this as a step in the right direction is naive. Throughout Puerto Rico’s long and turbulent relationship with the U.S., the island’s inhabitants have continually been treated as second-class citizens following disasters and made only more vulnerable to future calamities.
“Marco Rubio, Rick Scott call for Ian relief as Florida GOP votes against FEMA funding” via Herb Scribner of Axios — Several members of Congress from Florida previously voted against a short-term spending bill that includes aid for disaster relief. Rubio and Scott sent a joint letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs that requested “much-needed assistance to Florida.” Yes, but: Florida lawmakers already opposed major disaster relief earlier this week. The Senate passed a stopgap bill Thursday to fund the government through December that included an $18.8 billion fund for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help states with natural disasters. Scott voted against the bill, per the Senate roll call. Rubio was not present for the vote. The House voted in favor of the bill Friday. All 16 GOP members of Florida’s Congressional team voted against it.
“Rubio says he’ll oppose Ian relief package if unrelated measures are tacked on” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Rubio vowed to oppose any Hurricane Ian relief package that is “loaded up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm.” “I will fight against it having pork in it. That’s the key,” Rubio said. “We shouldn’t have that in there because it undermines the ability to come back and do this in the future.” Rubio, who joined fellow Sen. Scott in calling for supplemental disaster funding from Congress, made clear that he will only support a relief package that’s sole purpose is to provide resources for Hurricane Ian response.
“Lil’ Marco’s big loan: The tale of a Senator, his private-equity pal and an inexplicable appointment” via Areeba Shah of Salon — Sen. Rubio took out an $850,000 loan from his friend, financial adviser Bernie Navarro’s, company. Then, three months later, Rubio appointed Navarro to an influential commission that helps select nominees for federal judgeships, even though Navarro had no law degree and no legal experience. While there’s nothing illegal about taking out a short-term “bridge loan,” which Rubio used to purchase a house, but this case seems noteworthy for the close relationship between the two as well as the resulting appointment.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“National Archives says it’s still missing records from Donald Trump officials” via Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post — The National Archives has told the House Oversight Committee that it has not yet recovered all the records from Trump administration officials that should have been transferred under the Presidential Records Act. The Archives will consult with the Department of Justice “on whether ‘to initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed,’ as established under the Federal Records Act,” acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall said in a letter sent on Friday to the Committee’s Chair, Carolyn Maloney. Steidel Wall added that the Archives has been unable to obtain federal records related to “non-official electronic messaging accounts that were not copied or forwarded into their official electronic messaging accounts.”
— LOCAL: S. FL —
“Three bodies found off the Florida Keys. Cops believe they’re all migrants from Cuba” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — The bodies of three women were found in mangroves near Naval Air Station Key West Saturday afternoon, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday. This is, MCSO said, “the third time since Thursday the Sheriff’s Office has removed bodies in the area of Boca Chica Key and channel. A total of four females and one male have been recovered. Detectives believe all are Cuban migrants.” Though an autopsy remains to be completed, officials don’t believe foul play is involved in any of the deaths.
“Exiting Congress early, Ted Deutch assesses wins, losses — and increasingly toxic politics” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Congressman Deutch, a Broward-Palm County Democrat, announced he would be departing from his congressional seat in February — an unexpected move after serving for twelve-and-a-half years. Now, he’s trying something new, becoming the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, the world’s preeminent Jewish advocacy organization. Deutch recalled the defining time in his congressional career was the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which led him to become even more vocal about gun violence. He also noted the change in atmosphere from when he first joined Congress to his departure, especially in working among fellow lawmakers who are election deniers.
“Carnival cruise line has a problem that’s great for passengers” via Daniel Kline of the Miami Herald — Royal Caribbean, MSC, and Virgin Voyages face the same issue and that could be very good for people looking to take a cruise. After the pandemic devastated the cruise industry, a lot of questions remained as to how long it would take for the major cruise lines to get back to normal. Those ships started coming back into service in July 2021 sailing with limited passenger capacity and a lot of COVID-19-related rules. Over time, the CDC dropped those rules, then stopped tracking COVID-19 on cruise lines at all.
— LOCAL: C. FL —
“When Tampa Bay was in Hurricane Ian’s crosshairs, how did we do?” via Sue Carlton, Jack Evans and C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — For Tampa Bay, Hurricane Ian had to be the scariest near-miss yet. Intensive preparation for a deadly storm that ultimately did not come here was a dress rehearsal for if — or when — a future hurricane has Tampa Bay in its crosshairs. So how did the region do? Some local leaders were effusive about the dry run. “We came together and were ready, truly ready, for what would’ve been a catastrophic event” for Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said Wednesday night as it became clear the region had missed the worst of it. “Right now, I would give an A plus, plus, plus to everyone in the community,” said Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis.
“‘This is Irma times two:’ A slow flood will impact parts of Seminole days after Ian, officials warn” via Amanda Rabines of the Orlando Sentinel — High-water trucks filled with rescue responders sloshed their way through some of the most flooded areas of Central Florida Saturday, saving homeowners from floodwaters that continue to rise even after the brunt of Hurricane Ian passed over Wednesday night. One group of Florida National Guard members and Seminole County Fire Department officials rescued a family of seven, three dogs and two cats around 9 a.m. from a home in Geneva, one of the several areas in Seminole County that emergency officials believe to be at substantial risk of flooding over the next several days.
“Engaged Winter Springs couple among those who lost everything to Ian” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — Amanda Trompeta and Dimitrios Frantzis were asleep as Hurricane Ian swept over their home in Winter Springs early Thursday morning, when Hercules, their Chihuahua mix, started barking. The dog, who was floating on his bed, woke the couple as water rushed through the front and garage doors. In less than an hour, the house was completely flooded, with the three along with the family cat perched on the kitchen counter until help arrived six hours later as most of their belongings floated in 3 feet of water.
“Orange schools except flooded one to open Tuesday; Seminole’s on Monday” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Public Schools plans to reopen Tuesday, giving workers more time to restore power and make repairs to campuses in the wake of Tropical Storm Ian, officials said Saturday. One OCPS school suffered “major flood damage,” the district said. The Seminole County school district plans to reopen Monday but told families that a return to classes “will not be without its issues.” The Orange school district said 44 of 210 schools did not have full power late Friday because of the storm. On its Facebook page, the district also said Riverdale Elementary School on Lokanotosa Trail in east Orange had sustained “major flood damage after being fully surrounded by water” as Ian struck the region.
“Residents of flooded apartments near UCF wade in to salvage belongings” via Monivette Cordeiro of The Orlando Sentinel — The National Guard rescued Hundreds of residents this week from dangerous floods at the Arden Villas complex near UCF on Thursday. Now, they’re trying to salvage what they can, wading back to their apartments in waist-deep water. Central Florida has been hit by historic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which has forced hundreds to evacuate. At least three people in the region died during the storm.
“UCF announces delayed post-Ian reopening” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — University of Central Florida students will have to wait another day before returning to class, as it is delaying reopening to Tuesday, officials announced Saturday evening. The announcement explained the decision comes as “our local school districts” will also remain closed through Monday when the university initially expected to reopen. “Students who have already returned to campus will have access to dining, recreation and wellness, and other student services,” UCF said in a statement.
— LOCAL: SW. FL —
“Thousands line up for water, food at Charlotte FEMA site” via Chris Porter of Sun Newspapers — The line of vehicles at the Federal Emergency Management Agency aid station at the Charlotte Sports Park stretched a mile toward Englewood at noon Saturday. Another line from Port Charlotte was about the same distance. People reeling from Hurricane Ian in Charlotte County headed to the station to get boxes of food, water and tarps in big numbers not long after it opened Friday. By Saturday, the National Guardsmen at the site had loaded thousands of packages for people in need. Many said they were grateful for what they got — and that they were OK after Thursday’s devastating storm. Tiffany Gerace and her mother, Cathy, waited in line for about two and one-half hours.
“Venice High acting as shelter for North Port residents” via Morgan Simpson of Sun Newspapers — As the Myakka River continues to rise and residents flee, Venice High School opened up as an evacuation center. On Friday, the school was tapped as a voluntary evacuation center for North Port residents who did not have friends or family to stay with. Buses were transporting people from two locations in North Port that night. Craig Maniglia, Sarasota County Schools communications and community relations director, said under 100 people have been at the shelter since it opened. The shelter at Phillippi Shores Elementary was closing so people staying there were relocating to Venice High. “It’s closer to where their homes are,” Maniglia said about most of those still sheltering.
“In Marco Island, was direct-hit Irma worse than Ian? It depends on who you ask” via Hannah morse of the Naples Daily News — Marco Island has seen better days. On some streets in the days after Hurricane Ian, it seemed like any other Saturday morning, save for the neat piles of vegetation along the streets, a fallen tree here and there and the occasional Pike truck restoring power. An electronic messaging board alerted drivers that 911 was down and that boating was prohibited. Elsewhere, residents dragged to the curb surge-soaked mattress, chairs, appliances, dressers — the list goes on. Depending on who you ask, Hurricane Irma, which made a direct hit to the island city five years ago, was the most horrendous they’d experienced. Others, like 37-year-old Carl Johannes, say that title now goes to Ian.
“Sanibel city manager: Residents should not plan to visit soon for damage inspection” via Stacey Henson of the Fort Myers News-Press — Sanibel Island residents thinking about an immediate return — even in two weeks — to the island to inspect their property should heed officials’ advice: “No,” City Manager Dan Souza said. “There is not utilities. There is not water. There is not sewer. There is not electricity. And it’s more than spartan.” Souza and Mayor Holly Smith spoke at a news conference Saturday evening from the city’s temporary base, The Sanibel meeting room at Crowne Plaza in Fort Myers, with Smith declining to give any sort of timeline for a return. Smith emphasized it’s merely Day Three since Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, swamped the island, with between 200 and 300 households reporting they sheltered in place.
“‘A happy ending’: Daughter reunites with father she feared dead on Sanibel Island” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — On Thursday morning, Terry Mabs waited at the Port Sanibel marina, anxious and in the dark. Her 88-year-old father Richard Carlson had refused to evacuate his home on Sanibel, and she had not heard from him since Hurricane Ian slammed the island with 150 mph winds the previous afternoon. A 911 dispatcher told her to wait for rescue boats at the marina, so she did, with nothing to do but hope and worry. “I should have tied him up and dragged him out,” Mabs said in an interview at the time. At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, her ordeal ended in relief.
“During Hurricane Ian, shrimpers rode out the storm on boats. Now they’re left without work” via Hannah Morse and Andres Leiva of the Fort Myers News-Press — The “Eights & Aces” precariously perch on land near the Trico Shrimp Co. in Matanzas Harbor. Under the shadow cast by the shrimping boat’s black and white hull, sailors Oriel Martinez Alvarado and Javier Allan Lopez took a breather. The shrimping industry’s long history in Fort Myers Beach, the largest commercial shrimping fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, came to a crashing halt as Hurricane Ian’s storm surge tossed around massive boats like bath toys, most of them now stuck on land. As the area is home to the largest commercial shrimping fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, work in the area is reliable. But now, Martinez, Lopez and other shrimpers are out of a job indefinitely.
“Author Randy Wayne White survived Hurricane Ian’s assault on Sanibel” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Hurricane Ian wasn’t the first time author White decided to ride out a major storm. But it’s one he won’t forget. “I experienced a direct hit (during) Hurricane Charley 2004,” White sent Friday night in an email relayed from his sons on mainland Florida. “This was worse.” White, 72, author of the popular Doc Ford book series, is a partner in the Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille franchise that has a location at the Pier in St. Petersburg. Like the fictional Ford, White lives on Sanibel Island; he and his wife decided not to evacuate for Ian. But that decision sparked fears among friends and fans when all communications from White, including social media, went dark on Wednesday.
— LOCAL: N. FL —
“‘We got lucky’: Jacksonville spared as Tropical Storm Ian moved offshore” via The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville escaped significant damage as Tropical Storm Ian punched through the state’s east coast Thursday and turned northeast toward the South Carolina coast far offshore from the city’s beaches. There were some nervous moments tracking the storm, Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser said, but the Beaches and Jacksonville got lucky. “We were fortunate that the track went eastward before it really came by us,” Glasser said. “We’re sitting really well compared to the rest of the state. Now the attention goes toward helping those folks.”
“Duval, Clay, St. Johns County public schools to reopen Monday following Hurricane Ian” via Clayton Freeman of the Florida Times-Union — Duval County Public Schools will reopen schools and resume activities on Monday, following a three-day shutdown in response to Hurricane Ian. Duval County received limited flooding and some other disruptions from the storm as it cut across the central part of the state and emerged over the Atlantic Ocean. Jacksonville largely escaped the most severe impacts of the storm. During the three-day school closure, several of the county’s schools served as storm shelters.
“Council members with mayoral aspirations oppose tax dollars for JAX Chamber” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — A vote on spending $750,000 for JAX Chamber brought an early preview of the 2023 mayoral campaign when two Jacksonville City Council members running for Mayor opposed using taxpayer money on the organization whose CEO, Daniel Davis, also wants to be Mayor. Council members LeAnna Cumber and Al Ferraro were the only Council members who voted against the annual contribution to the Chamber as part of the 2022-23 budget approved Tuesday.
— TOP OPINION —
“News? What news? Something to be said for disconnect of wilderness” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — Considering what I do for a job, I feel a bit guilty saying this. For the last couple of weeks, I was oblivious to the news. And it felt good. Really good. I’d even go so far as to say it felt healthy.
I was hiking the John Muir Trail in California, heading southbound from Yosemite Valley through three national parks — Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia — to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Lower 48.
No, the stat that I find most remarkable about the John Muir Trail is how many roads cross it in those more than 200 miles.
It’s an iconic American trail. It’s also an isolated one, winding between the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, making it quite remote, which is great unless you need to get off it.
Part of the beauty is how you’re focused on what is around you, in this moment, not what is happening elsewhere.
You have a lot of time to think while hiking. And that’s one of the things I thought about. I still believe it’s critically important to pay attention to news, near and far. But in this age where news comes in more than a fire hose — it’s more like thousands of hoses flowing constantly — it’s also important to also get away from it. And there’s something to be said for at least temporarily shutting off all the spigots.
— OPINIONS —
“No, it’s not too soon. After Hurricane Ian, it’s time to say ‘climate change,’ DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — When DeSantis referred to a “biblical storm surge,” he was assessing Hurricane Ian’s damage and, unknowingly, prophesying what’s to come in future years and decades in Florida. Ian displayed many of the characteristics scientists say climate change will bring and already has brought to hurricanes because of warmer ocean temperatures and increased moisture in the atmosphere. The storm intensified with alarming speed, its winds nearly doubling in 24 hours before landing on Florida’s west coast as a Category 4.
“Three big jobs for Florida after Hurricane Ian” via Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian is agonizing — and the full extent of the damage has yet to be calculated. The immediate task is to reach survivors and provide lifesaving shelter and essentials, which will require tight coordination by federal, state and local agencies. After the immediate rescue and relief operations, three tasks will be vital to recovery efforts: strong federal leadership, helping with property insurance, and long-term housing solutions for those displaced by the disaster.
“Tread on us, please. Florida needs a new socialism-friendly slogan after Hurricane Ian” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post — Despite a recent tone of federal defiance from Florida’s Republican leadership, those same officials are asking for help the federal government can provide in response to Hurricane Ian. Vocal slogans of “freedom” to spite the feds have now fallen silent as officials extend their hands, open and ready to receive federal aid. DeSantis was one of just 67 U.S. House members who voted against allowing FEMA to pay out claims to New York and New Jersey residents who held federal flood insurance policies during Superstorm Sandy. But now in Florida, criticisms are temporarily suspended of federal handouts and any other form of socialism.
“With no water, ‘woke’ won’t matter” via Steve Bousquet of the Sun-Sentinel — It’s easy to point fingers and criticize when things are running normally, but things seem to change when disaster strikes. Criticisms of the federal government and media seemed stunted last week as Hurricane Ian struck. It seems political games have been tossed aside, at least temporarily, as officials work together to offer relief and recovery to the storm’s victims. One example — the Democratic President and the Republican Governor are talking on the phone. That’s a start.
“When culture wars go way too far” via David French of The Dispatch — At a time of profound public division and deep moral conflict, pluralism suffers from a serious disadvantage compared to the illiberal extremes of far-left and far-right. It’s not utopian. By design, it doesn’t “own the libs.” It doesn’t “own” anybody. It accommodates dramatic differences in worldview. The illiberal extremes, by contrast, offer an alluring vision for their partisans — ultimate victory and the vanquishing of their opponents. But when that “victory” severs parent from child, it’s not only unjust, it’s destabilizing. For example, states should pass age restrictions prohibiting dramatic medical interventions for children and at an absolute minimum must require parental consent. But they can express their values and pass their regulations while still remembering a singular moral and constitutional command — leave loving families alone.
“Political science went public. American democracy got worse.” via Julia Azari of Mischiefs of Faction — Public-facing political science is a civic enterprise. We don’t all do this for the perks of having less time for research and receiving hate mail. The project, at its core, is about communicating social science findings to better inform the media and the public. During the last six years or so, it has felt especially crucial, and public-facing work has proliferated, even as the space has changed. Initially, it seemed like sharing knowledge on its own would be a contribution to the health of democracy. The fact remains: threats to American democracy have grown while we’ve been building up the public-facing aspect of our discipline.
— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —
— ALOE —
“Sushi from a trailer? This Pensacola chef plans to win Pensacola over.” via Brittany Misencik of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola veteran chef Summer Rushing doesn’t necessarily enjoy cooking. In fact, her family will even tease her when they learn that people use the word “chef” to describe her. But something changes when she prepares sushi in someone’s home. It’s a task she has done hundreds of times before, yet she still gets a nervous tingle each time she presents a completed sushi platter. When serving sushi, Rushing transforms into a master of her craft, carefully creating a visually pleasing, tasty roll that makes converts out of even the most sushi averse.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Celebrating today are state Sen. Travis Hutson, Donna Blanton, Tracy Mayernick, and Derek Silver.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.