Hurricane Ian could turn out to be the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida, according to President Joe Biden.
“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history. The numbers … are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” Biden said after receiving a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington on Sept. 29, a day after the hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida.
The first confirmed death after the hurricane struck was a 72-year-old man who perished while he was draining his pool.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported the death, which took place in Deltona.
“The initial investigation indicates the victim was using a hose to drain the pool down a hill and into a 30-foot-wide canal, where a steep decline into the water was extremely soft and slippery due to the heavy rain. The Sheriff’s Office sends its sincere condolences to the victim’s family,” the office said.
Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno claimed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he knew fatalities were “in the hundreds” but later said on CNN that he only knew of roughly five deaths.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the number was unconfirmed.
“None of that is confirmed. I think what that is, is there were 911 calls for people saying, ‘Hey, the water is rising in my home. I’m going to go up in the attic. But I’m really worried.’ Of course, those folks are now going to be checked on,” he said at a briefing.
DeSantis said he knew of two deaths assumed to be from Hurricane Ian.
Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator, said on MSNBC that “we have a few reports of some fatalities” and that officials, including sheriffs, believed the death toll would rise in the near future.
The storm brought strong surges, heavy rainfall, and high winds, leaving numerous people stranded in their homes. Others evacuated before the hurricane hit.
Hurricane Ian was a category 4 storm when it made landfall, according to national weather officials. The higher a category, the stronger the storm.
Past hurricanes have killed dozens or even thousands of people.
Okeechobee hurricane, which struck Florida in 1928, left at least 2,500 dead, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Andrew, which hit in 1992, directly caused 26 deaths and indirectly led to 39 more.
Even before it hit, Hurricane Ian was projected to be one of the most expensive in history. Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler and director of research and development at Enki Research, pegged its costs as between $45 billion and $70 billion, which would leave it the sixth most expensive hurricane on record.
“We know many families are hurting,” Biden said. He urged people to stay indoors if possible as the storm moves north in Florida towards the Carolinas.
Biden to Visit
Biden said he plans to visit both Florida and Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.
Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico earlier this month.
Biden said he’ll meet with DeSantis while he’s in Florida if the governor is available.
The president and DeSantis have spoken four or five times, Biden said.
The president declared a major disaster for some of the hardest-hit Florida counties, enabling individuals to ask for federal aid. DeSantis said he has asked Biden to expand the declaration to more counties. Biden said he may ask Congress for additional funding to deal with the damage the storm wrought.
From The Epoch Times