DeSantis Says ‘Field Boots’ Needed to Assess Florida Hurricane Damage

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Gov. Ron DeSantis said rapid recovery efforts were underway Thursday afternoon, with the restoration of power to about 40,000 of Northwest Florida’s 250,000 homes darkened Wednesday by the Hurricane Sally.

After an aerial tour of the storm-flooded West Panhandle, DeSantis said he expected the impacts to be more severe than he could see from above, as much of the anticipated damage was due at the water. In addition to the heavy rains, the storm surge is said to have exceeded five feet.

“I think you’re really just going to have to get your feet on the ground to get the full impact of what happened,” DeSantis said. “Obviously there were certainly still areas where it was evident that you had had major flooding. There are other areas that as the crow flies probably don’t do justice to the actual damage we’ve seen inside homes.

Additional federal aid is expected to arrive in the coming days, DeSantis said. The United States Coast Guard conducted search and rescue operations and ensured the flight of DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Director of the State Division of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz and Secretary of the Department of Florida Transport, Kevin Thibault.

As of Thursday afternoon, no fatalities in Florida had been linked to the storm.

DeSantis said the state was moving residents of an assisted living facility that had lost power in Santa Rosa County to another facility.

The state was also assessing damage to six bridges that remained closed, including the Pensacola Bay Bridge, known locally as the Three Mile Bridge. The span, which is the main link between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach in Pensacola, lost a significant section after being struck by a barge.

DeSantis said the Transportation Department was looking at the potential negligence of the barge owner, but noted that the owner may have been following models from the National Hurricane Center that showed Hurricane Sally was heading for the Mississippi. The Category 2 storm made landfall Wednesday morning in Gulf Shores, Ala.

“We had an oscillation to the east. And that obviously had bigger impacts for Pensacola, ”said DeSantis, who, as the storm approached the coast on Tuesday, was at the White House and at a charter school in Doral.

With at least three boil orders issued in Northwest Florida, the Division of Emergency Management had deployed 972,000 bottles of water and 179,000 meals.

DeSantis advised residents of the battered area not to explore the damage, as he asked the Florida Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation to help utility crews travel to the area.

“Just understand that if you are someone who is just driving to drive, this might not be the best time to do it,” DeSantis said. “It’s really slowing down to be able to get all the utility trucks to where they need to be. ”

DeSantis continued to warn of the crested rivers and streams that flow north into the Panhandle, as Sally’s remains were focused on Georgia Thursday afternoon.

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