Wash.DC- Local, state and federal officials painted a dire description of Hurricane Ian’s impacts during appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, with many of them calling for more 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, all of whom surveyed damage from Ian, told hosts that the storm caused widespread flooding and property damage across the state as hundreds of thousands remain without power.
“I don’t think it has 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’ll have to be rebuilt. It’ll be something different. It was a slice of old Florida that you can’t recapture. Sanibel’s basically flattened.”
Ian made landfall near Fort Myers on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, bringing destructive winds and an extraordinary storm surge that some have estimated may have reached 18 feet at its peak.
At least 47 Floridians died from the hurricane, and the death toll has continued to climb as officials pursue the recovery effort. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) office said on Saturday afternoon that first responders so far have made more than 1,100 rescues.
“I know we worry a lot about the direct impacts from the storm itself if it’s making landfall, but we see so many more injuries and sometimes more fatalities after the storm because there are so many dangers out there,” Criswell told “Fox News Sunday” anchor Shannon Bream.
“What I can say is people need to stay vigilant right now,” Criswell continued. “Standing water brings with it all kinds of hazards.”
As officials continue assessing the wreckage, Florida’s two senators said they support congressional funding to aid the recovery, which would go beyond President Biden’s approval of Florida’s emergency and major disaster declarations that freed up federal resources.
But on CNN’s “State of the Union,” co-anchor Dana Bash pressed Rubio on why he didn’t vote for a relief bill in early 2013 following Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey.
Rubio claimed that bill had multiple provisions funding projects unrelated to the storm, although Bash rebuked some of the senator’s examples.
The Florida Republican went on to say he believes an Ian relief bill should have no “pet projects” for other lawmakers.
“I will fight against it having pork in it,” Rubio said. “That’s the key. We shouldn’t have that in there, because it undermines the ability to come back and do this in the future.”
Both Rubio and Scott appeared open to supporting a relief bill even if the funding was not offset to have a net-zero effect on the federal budget.
“Everything you do, you’d love it to be paid for,” Scott said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “But we’ve made commitments, and we’re going to help our families, our businesses, our states and local governments, and as federal government, we need to do our job.”
The news anchors also asked officials whether it makes sense to rebuild destroyed communities in low-lying areas near water given climate change and regular hurricanes in the region.
But many officials seemed reluctant to abandon the communities, touting new building regulations and other strategies to mitigate the impacts of future storms.
“You have to make tough decisions when you rebuild,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), whose state was hit by Ian, told NBC “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd.
“We’ve had two 500-year floods within 23 months of each other,” Cooper continued. “And we know that that’s not true anymore. We know that these areas are vulnerable. So what we’re doing is making sure that we are using strategies like elevation and even buyouts.”
Criswell, the FEMA administrator, said rebuilding decisions should be up to individuals, and she urged them to understand the risks and purchase flood insurance.
“We need to make sure that we have strong building codes because we have risks all over,” she told moderator Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.”
“We’ve seen damage inland in the state, and we need to have building codes that can make sure that our properties can withstand the impacts that we’re seeing from these severe weather events,” Criswell added.
Brennan later in the show asked Anderson, the mayor of Fort Myers, if the city needs to pull back development near the water. The hurricane made landfall near the city, and Anderson’s county faced some of the worst human and property losses.
“No, we have good building codes,” Anderson responded. “As I said, the newer homes, they withstood the storm. So as people tear down and build new, they’ll be subjected to the newer, tougher building codes. And in future storms, they should be able to weather it a lot better.”