Florida Governor DeSantis Provides Update on Hurricane Ian

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis held a press briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, Florida, on Tuesday, September 27, to provide an update on Hurricane Ian, which is forecasted to impact Florida today.

DeSantis said the storm surges from Ian would “far eclipse” those that Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 hurricane that hit Florida in 2004, produced. “What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential,” DeSantis said in the press briefing.

Multiple counties across Florida have been placed under evacuation orders. DeSantis encouraged residents of those regions to evacuate and provided further information about resources available to them.

DeSantis said 5,000 Florida guardsmen and urban search and rescue teams had been activated to help the impacted areas.

Kevin Guthrie, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, also provided an update during the briefing.

The NHC forecasted that parts of Florida would experience life-threatening storm surges and hurricane-force winds as the Category 3 hurricane approaches. DeSantis declared a state of emergency on September 24 in response to hurricane forecasts. Credit: Governor Ron DeSantis via Storyful

Video transcript

RON DESANTIS: Do [? in gratia ?] check from FEMA. As of 8:00 AM this morning, Hurricane Ian is located roughly 200 miles South of Key West. It's moving North at 12 miles per hour and is anticipated to exit land in Cuba very soon. It is now a major hurricane, category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 miles per hour.

Overnight and into this morning, some of the modeling that has been done is now projecting a landfall South of Tampa Bay. I know we've talked about the cone of uncertainty where the landfall was projected. We had it North Florida just a couple of days ago. That's consistently been moved more East into the Florida Peninsula.

Yesterday evening, there were a lot of solutions bringing it right into Tampa Bay. Now you have a lot of solutions bringing the landfall into the Sarasota area. There's still uncertainty with where that exact landfall will be, but just understand the impacts are going to be far, far broader than just where the eye of the storm happens to make landfall.

In some areas, there will be catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surge. And so if you're on Florida's Gulf Coast, from Naples all the way through the Tampa Bay Area and some of the counties North of that, that could be something that happens. And it will certainly happen in some parts of Florida's Gulf Coast.

Now I know there's folks in Southwest Florida who remember Hurricane Charley, was projected to make a direct impact into Tampa Bay, and then it turned and went in into Southwest Florida. I would just say the track may end up doing something similar, but this is a much different storm. Charley was a lot smaller. It was powerful. It was a category 4.

Most of the damage from Charley was from wind and wind destruction. What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential. And so if you're looking at those places in Fort Myers, Charlotte County, Sarasota, the storm surge that you're going to see generated from this is going to far eclipse what we saw there.

And so as you look to see what is going on with the local counties, there's evacuation orders that are in place on all these counties from Pasco and Pinellas down to the Fort Myers area. And our recommendation is to heed those evacuation orders. What those evacuation orders are doing is identifying people that live in areas that are vulnerable to major storm surge. And that storm surge can be life threatening.

There's certain things we can protect against in terms of the wind and the structures. And we've got great building codes. But when you have 5 to 10 feet of storm surge, that is not something that you want to be a part of. And mother nature is a very fearsome adversary.

So please heed those warnings. You do not need to evacuate to another state. You don't need to go hundreds of miles away. There's shelters that are open in all of these counties at this point.

The important part is if you're under an evacuation order is evacuate to, to higher ground that is going to be safe from the type of surge and flooding that we're fearing with this storm. Of course, there's certain Floridians that may live in mobile homes or manufactured housing that would be vulnerable. If you're under an order, of course, you know, you want to be in a structure that is going to be able to withstand some of the hurricane winds. But by and large, we're looking at really, really major storm surge up and down the West Coast of Florida.

There are people that, of course, you know, are evacuating on different roadways. There has been, been traffic, but there has not yet been the backups where FDOT and FHP have opened the emergency shoulder lanes. They will do that once sustained speeds are at 40 miles per hour or less.

And so when that happens, they will make that call. People will be able to use those, you know, but don't use it until then because that obviously, you know, carries some risk if people, you know, don't know that that's something that is going on. You also can use things like GasBuddy to find gas stations in the area that have fuel.

And I would note, if you look at these updated tracks that we've been getting this morning-- and I think you'll probably see that reflected in the 11:00 AM advisory from the National Hurricane Center-- you have potential paths of the storm entering Florida's Gulf Coast, cutting across the state, and exiting into the Atlantic Ocean. That means some of those counties that are more interior, you know, you could absolutely see power outages. You could see inland flooding. You know, you could see various types of tree and damage from wind. So just be prepared for that.

We were here 48 hours ago, and most of the solutions had it going up the coast, the West Coast of Florida. Well, now most of them have it ramming into the state of Florida and cutting across. And so just be prepared for that and understand that that's something that could be happening. Visit Florida has partnered with Expedia to launch an emergency accommodations page.

Anyone who has been ordered to evacuate can use this page to find available accommodations in other areas of the state by visiting expedia.com/florida, again, expedia.com/florida. We have about 2.5 million Floridians that are currently under some type of an evacuation order. Make sure you know your evacuation zones. So you can find that at floridadisaster.org/planprepare, floridadisaster.org/planprepare. And, of course, if you are called upon to evacuate, make sure you take care of your pets.

Don't leave your pets behind when you're evacuating. You know, there's pet friendly shelters. There's things that can be done to take care of pets. We want to make sure-- so there is information about planning for your pet at floridadisaster.org/planprepare. We want to make sure that we're taking care of our friends.

To find shelters, again, visit floridadisaster.org/shelters, floridadisaster.org/shelters. Most of these counties are going to have shelters within the county that are in higher ground. The buildings are going to be hurricane proof. They're going to be able to withstand a category 3 hurricane in terms of the winds, but it's going to put you in a situation where you're not going to be vulnerable to the effects of the storm surge and the effects of the flooding.

We have, of course, suspended tolls starting yesterday to assist people who may be moving around the state and following evacuation orders. You can look at those facilities at fda.gov that list them. We may add more if there is a need to do that as the storm impacts other parts of the state. And we will make that announcement at the appropriate time.

We have 26 school districts that have announced school closures. And you may very well have more as the track becomes more certain. If you want the most updated school information, go to fldoe.org/storminfo, fldoe.org/storminfo.

We have 5,000 national guardsmen that are activated. We've got 2,000 additional guardsmen from other states. And I know Jim's been talking with other states to help us with, with even more assets. We do have our urban search and rescue teams activated. We have three additional teams on standby ready to deploy.

Our FWC has officers placed in every county in anticipation of heavy rains and flooding. And you will see heavy rains in parts of the state that are not necessarily on Florida's Gulf Coast. We also have high water vehicles and shallow draft boats that are ready for immediate deployment to the affected areas.

We also have FWC aviation section placed on standby, and it's ready. All appropriate aircraft are ready for deployment for search and rescue and post-storm damage assessments as needed. FHP has implemented their 12 hour shifts. They've mobilized additional state troopers to the Gulf Coast. And, of course, our partners in the US Coast Guard are standing by and are able and willing to assist.

We do report today 100% of operating long-term care facilities do have a generator on site. Of course, we have a state of emergency for all 67 counties. We are going to keep that in place.

I think if you look at the tracks that have come out this morning, the chance that you have major impacts in Northwest Florida, of course, have, have declined, but we also understand there's going to be people that are going to be evacuating. And we want to give every county flexibility to help their fellow Floridians.

We have issued the waivers of weights for commercial trucks. We want the fuel and the resources continuing to come into the state. We've spoken with, with our partners there. They're going to keep doing it until it's no longer safe to do so, because they understand how important it is.

We do have emergency refills of maintenance prescriptions. Those are authorized for another 30 days, and we now have 28,000 across the state between our investor-owned utilities, our municipal utilities, and our rural electric co-ops. More than 28,000 linemen are staged for power restorations across the state of Florida. And we understand, as, as the storm hits and passes, the need to be able to restore power as soon as possible for as many Floridians as possible.

Make sure you're executing your plan. This is imminent. We appreciate everybody in our counties who've worked very hard to execute their plans. Kevin will talk a little bit more about from the DEM perspective, but we've had more than we've had about 500 requests for assistance from our counties. The state has fulfilled 466.

Some others are on the way, and some will be fulfilled. They just can't be fulfilled until the storm actually hits. We mentioned sending medical professionals to Hillsborough County, special needs shelters. We sent another 120 to surrounding counties.

We do have our logistical staging area in Polk County, and we will have additional staging later today. 300 ambulances supporting special needs evacuations have been deployed. Hundreds of generators and pumps have been staged, primarily in the Tampa area. And, of course, pre landfall, food, and water has been staged for Tampa Bay region.

Now as the track has, has moved a little bit more to where you have potentially greater impacts in Southwest Florida, I mean, we knew you were going to get storm surge all along. I mean, it's just the nature of a storm this big.

However, Kevin is going to be mobilizing more resources to be able to assist those counties in the Southwest portion of the state of Florida. Again, go to floridadisaster.org/getaplan to make sure that, that you have what you need. You know, you still have time today to execute what you need to do. If you're in an evacuation zone, you have time to be able to heed those orders. If you're not, you have time to be able to get whatever supplies that you may need to deal with what's going to happen over the next few days.

I would just tell all Floridians who are in the path of this, you know, there's going to be interruptions in things like power. There's going to be interruptions in fuel, maybe interruptions in communications. That is to be expected. So just plan for that. And, of course, all these resources are mobilized to try to restore the services as quickly as possible once it's safe to do so.

Safety is paramount. When you're talking about storm surge like this, when you're talking about historic flooding, that water is a very, very difficult adversary. You do not want to put yourself in harm's way unnecessarily.

So if you're ordered to evacuate, that's a decision based off what we're seeing with this storm, what your local officials are seeing with the storm, and the potential impacts that could have on your part of the state of Florida, and doesn't mean you need to go all across God's creation to evacuate. Just get to the higher ground. Get into a safe structure.

We have shelters open in all those counties now at the county level. And we would encourage people to do that. Once the storm passes, you could be able to get back in your home.

We'll be able to assess whatever damage may have occurred and be able to, to make the necessary improvements and rebuild, but we can't unring the bell if you stay and you end up getting washed away with, with a historic storm surge or get caught in really, really significant flooding. So Kevin Guthrie is going to say a few words. And then we're also going to have Jared Perdue from FDOT give an update on the traffic situation.

KEVIN GUTHRIE: Thank you, governor. And good morning, I'm going to start with a bullet point that I actually don't have because it was just sent to me. But the National Hurricane Center is now predicting that landfall will be Venice in 35 hours at 125 miles an hour. So, again, Venice in 35 hours at 125 mile an hour, making that a major category 3 land-falling hurricane.

We currently have more as the governor mentioned. We currently have more than 500 active mission requests from our local partners. And we are working diligently to ensure that all the needs are met. The governor already mentioned that we are starting to move additional contract staff and additional resources into the Southwest Florida area.

We do have the five urban search and rescue teams that are on standby. And we were moving those, again, around the state of Florida. I think it's very important to say that Tampa Bay region, you're not out of the woods yet.

There is still going to be a storm surge event in the Tampa Bay region. We're waiting on that data to come in to see what those actual numbers are going to be but you need to additionally-- you need to continue to heed the warnings that are in place for Pinellas, Tampa, Manatee, Hillsborough. Do not return yet if you have evacuated.

Residents can expect power due to anticipated impacts from the storm statewide. We do have telephone companies on standby. We have the big three wireless companies here in our EOC with us.

Floridians should be prepared and have a communications plan in place with their families on how they plan to communicate after the fact. During previous hurricanes, the cell towers did go down. We expect them to go down in this particular event.

Residents should have alternate ways to communicate with friends, loved ones, and family. It's also important to remember when an evacuation order is issued, you may only need to evacuate tens of miles as the governor has mentioned already instead of hundreds of miles. Many people in the Southwest Florida area, your best bet is going to be evacuate across the state.

Just go straight across the state to Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach. Do not try to go North. That will certainly help the secretary from DOT to help manage that traffic. Do not go North. Go straight across over to Southeast Florida.

Residents should take the time now to determine if they live in an evacuation zone. Again, that is available at floridadisaster.org slash K-N-O-W or slash planprepare as the governor has already mentioned. I want to take a moment to-- we've had some calls come in to our call in center.

It is not the FEMA flood site. These are evacuation zones on floridadisaster.org. They are not one and the same.

We had a lady call in this morning saying, well, it says, I live in a zone X. That is a FEMA flood map. That is not a storm surge zone evacuation zone. So please know the difference between the two.

Keep gas and battery tanks at least half full throughout the entire season, especially in this event. That will cut down on lines at gas stations. If you live in an evacuation zone and you decide to shelter in place, make sure you have enough supplies to weather the storm. We may be without power 3, 5, 7 days, or more depending on the situation.

You will want to make sure that you have extra cash in case ATM-- or I'm sorry, in case credit card services are unavailable after the storm. Another major threat with Hurricane Ivan or-- I'm sorry, Hurricane Ian is going to be damaging winds. So if you can pick it up, put it up. Again, if you can pick it up from your yard, put it up.

Secure those loose items in your yard. Take the time to clear all that potential debris. Bring in furniture. Strong winds can pick those items up and crash them into your home or your neighbor's home.

For more updates in your area, remember to follow your local county emergency management activity. That will be the best source of information at the local level on your evacuations. The division has activated the state assistance information line, the cell line, to provide additional resources for Floridians to receive up to date information regarding Hurricane Ian via phone.

Residents and visitors can call this toll free line at 1-800-342-3557. I'll repeat that number. It is 1-800-342-3557.

You can also follow the division on Facebook and Twitter. Our Twitter handle is @FLSERT. That's at @FLSERT. If you have any additional information that you need, you can always go to our floridadisaster.org website slash info. Governor, again, thank you very much for your leadership in this situation.

RON DESANTIS: Great. Jared.

JARED PURDUE: Yes, thank you, governor, and good morning. As the governor mentioned, tolls suspensions are still in effect for listed facilities focused on the coastal areas. We are going to continue to monitor the situation, and we'll potentially enact more as deemed appropriate. You can go to FDOT.gov for more information on that.

FDOT road and bridge contractors have suspended operations on active construction projects within the projected path of Hurricane Ian. These projects are performing activities, such as lowering crane booms, high-mass lighting, securing barges, clearing traffic control devices, and checking drainage systems.

Contractors are also opening all travel lanes and removing non-critical barricades to aid in evacuations. For bridges in the potential impact area, once wind speeds increase beyond 40 miles per hour, we coordinate very closely with FHP and local law enforcement and stop traffic from crossing bridges for the safety of the traveling public. FHP will be closely monitoring wind speeds on critical bridges, such as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

FDOT is staging resources nearby to perform critical road and bridge inspections after the storm in order to resume bridge usage as soon as it is safe to do so. Typically, inspections are performed, and we prioritize coastal bridges and move inland. For example, in the Tampa Bay Area, Howard Frankland, Sunshine Skyway, Courtney Campbell, Gandy Boulevard, and Pinellas Byway would be-- Bayway would be those priorities.

Additional resources are being staged strategically in safe locations in close proximity to the projected path to allow for quick implementation following the passage of the storm. FDOT is activating specific emergency and pre-event contracts and also road-clearance contracts to expedite roadway openings after the storm passes through. FDOT will also be closely coordinating with utility providers to coordinate post-storm debris operations in support of power restoration.

We continue to coordinate very closely with FHP Georgia DOT, Florida DEP, and the US Coast Guard for other bridge and road closures and to facilitate evacuations and debris cleanup after the storm passes through. All of our seaports currently have adequate fuel supplies and are well positioned to quickly reinstate operations following the storm to keep fuel supplies moving. Seaports in the cone of influence have already begun suspending operations to prepare for impact and staging appropriate resources to safely restore operations after the storm.

We're also very closely coordinating with our airports and the area of impact for more information on airport closures. Please, please get with your local airports as, as evacuations continue. FDOT has traffic management centers around the state that operate 24/7. We have teams monitoring traffic levels along critical corridors to ensure safe and efficient flow of traffic.

We've also increased our resources in terms of FDOT road rangers and motorist assistance to aid in evacuations. And we will be closely monitoring traffic speeds, traffic volumes along the evacuation routes. And we'll also be considering the use of the shoulders when, when it is needed.

As the governor mentioned, you know, we typically look at operating speeds of around 40 to 45 miles per hour. We've already begun operations to make sure the shoulders are clear of debris and clean so that vehicles can safely use them. Florida's 511 travel information system is available for drivers to stay informed about roadway conditions during emergencies. These services includes traffic conditions, road and bridge closures, toll suspensions, and other specialized alerts. To use Florida's 511 visit the website at FL511.com or download the app on both Apple and Android devices. Again, governor, thank you for your leadership.

RON DESANTIS: OK. So the NHC is going to have that at the 11 advisory.

KEVIN GUTHRIE: That's what we're being advised.

RON DESANTIS: OK, so the-- and we had mentioned because the models overnight that were coming in were all arriving at solutions in Sarasota area. The National Hurricane Center is 11:00 AM advisory will confirm that with a landfall in the Southern part of Sarasota County. Now, again, this thing is just getting over Cuba. I mean, there could be more wobbles. And so the idea that it's no longer-- the eye's no longer projected to hit Tampa Bay directly does not mean that you will not have major impacts in Tampa Bay, does not mean that you can't see a wobble going a different direction.

I will say, just having watched these runs over the past 96 hours or so, you are seeing the models really, really push more East. And so if you have an impact in a place like, like Venice, that is going to be a lot of inundation, a lot of surge in places like Charlotte County, places like Lee County, of course, Sarasota as well, but what that will also do is likely bring it to cut it across the state of Florida. And so there's different models on that, but a lot of them now have it cutting across and going out into the Atlantic Ocean.

So if you're in some of those interior parts of the state of Florida from kind of up by [INAUDIBLE] almost in some of those things, just, just anticipate. You know, it's not going to be a category 3 hurricane by the time it gets to you, but, but anticipate interruptions. Anticipate wind. Anticipate a lot of rain. And of course, we have rivers and waterways all throughout the state of Florida, including the interior that are in danger of overflowing under those circumstances.

And so just continue to watch the weather wherever you are in the state of Florida. Heed the advice of your local officials, but this is definitely something that, that is getting closer and closer. And so, so act now to do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family. OK, any questions?

- Yeah, governor, worst case scenario-- and I think you may have seen Jared bring us calculate-- make some calculations about the insurance impact, but citizens could be-- which covers 25% of the Tampa area-- could be paying out $10 billion. The total cost just for the Tampa Bay Area could be $40 billion. You know, is there some contingency plan in place beyond what the legislature and you approved to lower the hurricane catastrophe cap?

RON DESANTIS: I mean, we'll address that. I mean, we have a CAT fund that's flush. We put another $2 billion in into kind of an added layer of protection. I would say, though, we are looking at a lot of flood claims.

I'm not saying there's not going to be wind damage. I mean, it's a hurricane. So you're likely to see that. But when you're talking about things like Tampa Bay, you know, the danger and why Tampa Bay is so fragile in terms of these types of storms and why people have said that's the one place in Florida that could have the most damage is because that water has got nowhere to go in Tampa Bay, and so you end up with surge. You end up with flooding in that Tampa Bay Area.

We have close to a million flood policies under the National Flood Insurance Program. We've got about 15,000 private policies. And so most of that is going to end up being an issue for that.

Now, of course, there's more that I want to do in terms of the wind insurance. And that'll be something that, that we're going to address. I mean, look at the end of the day, we've got to make sure folks are taken care of. And so we will do that-- whatever we need to do.

- Could you give an update the nursing homes? I mean, how many residents, how many nursing home residents have been evacuated across the state? And is there an update on how compliance is going? We're hearing about power outages with the AHCA rule compliance.

RON DESANTIS: So right now, it's 100%. So the 100% are reporting generators on site. And we're happy about that. Kevin, do you want to talk about-- I know they've done it in the Tampa Bay Area.

- Sure. Pinellas County mentioned yesterday that they are evacuating somewhere around the neighborhood of 90-hospital ALFs and nursing homes. We've got similar numbers into the South of the Bay. Obviously, Manatee County doesn't have that many, but we're-- all of those counties are getting compliance with evacuation orders. And when and if we have challenges, obviously, Secretary Marcella makes some phone calls, and we get compliance.

So we're getting 100% compliance right now out of the ALF medical and nursing home industry. And, again, they're heeding the evacuation orders. They're evacuating. Again, the, the good news story here, really good news story is we have 100% compliance with a generator rule.

RON DESANTIS: And Kevin will be-- he will be moving. I think you already are in the process of surging more of the ambulances down to Southwest Florida. Obviously, we've had a lot stage in Tampa Bay. And there will still be support there, but as you look at the track shifting further South, there's going to be more needs there as a result.

And so Kevin is doing that, and I think that that's good. As you know, in Southwest part of the state of Florida, I mean, we've got a lot of elderly residents, not just in ALFs, but certainly, we've got a lot of those facilities in counties like Collier, Lee, and Charlotte. Yes, sir.

- This maybe a good follow-up question. Do you a guesstimate on how many people are in these areas that are going to be impacted by the up to 10 feet of storm surge and would need to be evacuated? I mean, do you have a count of like maybe thousands and millions of people.

RON DESANTIS: Well, there's, there's-- under the current evacuation orders, which are probably Pasco down to Collier-- would you say?

KEVIN GUTHRIE: Well, we have not run the numbers on the Fort Myers.

RON DESANTIS: OK. So but-- I mean-- but, but, but it's over 2 million.

KEVIN GUTHRIE: It's over 2 million. And so that's-- and, again, this is not necessarily saying, you have to evacuate to another state. It's not saying you have to go to Miami. It's not saying that. All those counties have shelters within their counties.

The instruction is you're in a vulnerable area to storm surge or flooding, evacuate to higher ground. And if you evacuate to higher ground in a structure that is sound, you know, you're going to be fine. And, and that's something that, that we just want people to know.

When they say evacuate, that doesn't mean keep traveling until you have no chance of being rained on or have no chance of having any-- you don't need to do that. Obviously, it's a free country. People can, can get in the car and, and do what they want, but that's not what, what it means.

The impacts, as it gets into the state of Florida, if you are not in a low-lying area and you're in a structure that is sound, you know, you're going to be OK when you do that. And so this is-- Charley in back in, I guess, '04, that was like kind of a buzz saw. It was a category 4, a lot of wind damage, really, really destructive in terms of what it did in Southwest Florida. Of course, people thought it was going to hit Tampa, and then it shifted.

Obviously, if you have a cat 3, people say, maybe. It was-- we were hoping it was going to weaken before it hit landfall. The problem is the further East that's gone, the less time it has to weaken.

Nevertheless, what this is really doing, because of the size of the storm, is it's kicking up a lot of surge. I mean, those seas, you know, the Gulf is going to be very angry as this comes in. And you're going to see that happen. And so the danger to life and limb is really from that surge and from that flooding more so than the wind.

Obviously, if you're in a mobile home and you have 120 mile an hour winds, I mean, that's going to be a problem-- and heed the evacuation orders accordingly. But we've got a lot of Floridians who are in low-lying areas. And when you have storm surge of this magnitude, you know, that can absolutely be life threatening. We want everyone to be safe. Of course, if there's need for search and rescue, we've got resources.

The counties have great resources. The state, National Guard, other states are helping. And we will do that, but just keep in mind that when you're doing that, those first responders are put at risk by, by going into those situations. So if you can avoid that at the front end by getting to a safer position, you know, that is obviously going to be good, not just for you, but it's also going to be good for the people that may be called upon to go into harm's way.

- If people evacuate, can you give us an update on fuel supply. This be a question for Secretary Perdue, but have you considered making all of the lanes eastbound out of Tampa?

RON DESANTIS: So I'll let him amplify that, but basically that issue has been studied by the department over what, about 10 years or so? And what they have determined is that it's more efficient to just expand into the emergency lanes and the shoulders and open those up for more traffic, rather than try to make everything going in one direction. I think part of the issue is, is, you know, we need to access it in the other direction to help people and to bring in supplies, but I'll let Jared talk more about it.

JARED PURDUE: Yeah, absolutely. What you're referring to would be what we call contraflow. And we have done many studies. And we actually have proven that using the shoulder for emergency evacuations is a successful way to do it.

You do need the other side of the facility for continued access for first responders and life safety missions. Yeah, so we have successful examples of that. And we'll be closely coordinating throughout to make sure traffic continues to flow.

RON DESANTIS: And that-- he's going to look. I mean, they will open those lanes once you have less than 40 miles per hour sustained traffic flow. And the places where that would happen would, of course, be I-75 North out of the Tampa Bay Area or in Sarasota, but also I-75 going across Alligator Alley and then, of course, I-4.

Someone was showing some stuff about there's some traffic on I-4 last night. And so, so they're watching that. It has increased. Although, I think most Floridians who are familiar with Central Florida, you know, you could be between Tampa and Orlando on I-4 and run into traffic really at any hour of the day, but they are sensitive to that.

They will open that up to be able to, to increase the flow. And basically, as soon as that under 40 happens, then, then they will do it. But by and large, we've seen an increase on the roads, but you still have flow. And that's monitored on a minute-by-minute basis.

- [INAUDIBLE] fuel supply, are there areas where there are shortages? Is everything--

RON DESANTIS: In terms of like--

- Fuel supply.

RON DESANTIS: Fuel supply. Kevin, you want to address that?

KEVIN GUTHRIE: I know technically the ports fall under Secretary Perdue, but we did talk to the ports council executive director. And everything is topped off now at 8:00 this morning. West Coast ports were closed by the US Coast Guard, but the port is not closed.

It's closed to sea. Traffic it is not closed to the fuel racks. So we can still keep getting fuel from those, those tanks and get that back out into the market. And we're still doing that. That's happening right now at every port on the West Coast, but we are officially closed, but before they closed they topped everything completely off.

RON DESANTIS: And just know as people-- of course, the fuel keep that flowing, get the power back on, I mean, people are going to want to go back to their homes. I mean, there's a lot of people that have been evacuated in say Pinellas County. There's more evacuations all the way down the Gulf Coast. When the bridges reach a certain sustained wind, what is it, 40 miles an hour that you-- they will-- if that will alert local law enforcement, they will stop access to the bridge because it's not safe as you get above that.

Once the storm passes, the bridges will be open, but they will be evaluated for integrity and safety because you don't want if there's something that happened to put people over bridges that aren't safe. So if you're thinking about someplace like the Tampa Bay Area, you have-- I mean, you have Courtney Campbell. You have Howard Frankland, Gandy. You have Sunshine Skyway. Those are going to be inspected.

Jared has people ready to go. The Army Corps has people ready to go. We understand that's a priority, but we also want to make sure that it's safe.

The extent that the storm goes more in the Venice area, you're looking at different bridges in and out of Charlotte in Lee County. So you will have, at some point-- those will be suspended in terms of people being able to use those. And then once the storm passes, they are going to be evaluated for structural integrity as well.

So really from Southwest Florida up into the Tampa Bay Area, we've got a lot of bridges getting in and out of these communities, and they're all going to be evaluated. And we want to make sure that, that they are-- if they're safe and still sound, which we anticipate they will be, but, you know, this is a significant storm. Some of them may be a little lower, there'll be water pushing up.

So there's just a lot of factors, but, but that will happen. So just plan on, when the storm passes, there may be a short period of time where that is being evaluated. And that's just being done for people's safety. Yep.

- Sort of a morbid question, but with the reality of this being a rainstorm and there being flooding and, of course, drownings and whatnot, I don't know if the state has given any estimate of how deadly this storm is going to be.

RON DESANTIS: I think it's hard to say. I mean, I think that the people that-- when, when your local emergency officials are instituting an order for evacuation, the purpose of that is to protect people's lives. And the more people that heed that, the less likely that you're going to see fatalities when you have major storm surge or flooding in those areas.

I will say, and it's something that Kevin has also talked about and I've talked about a lot, in some of the recent storms across the country, you've had more fatalities after the storm hit than because of the storm directly. And that has a variety of different reasons. One of the things is misuse of generators inside people's homes. That exhaust has got to go outside your home. Do not put that inside. That will be-- you could get poison, and you could die.

So we see that happens now in pretty much every storm. So we've put out videos. We've put out different guidance about using generators to, to-- I mean, nobody wants to be without power. Generators can be a great thing to kind of keep a sense of normalcy as you're waiting for other things around you to get back to normal, but, but you've got to use it properly.

There's also-- people will go into some of the standing water that you see. If you have standing water, you could have an electrical cord or something that is in there. And you could get harmed in that way.

Driving vehicles when you have a lot of standing water is very, very hazardous. And so we would caution people not to try to drive vehicles through flooded streets. So you see a lot of the things that happen after the storm that have unfortunately caused folks to pass away. So those are things that we're putting guidance out on, but on the front end of the storm, the surge, the flooding, making sure if you are in a vulnerable structure, like a mobile home, that you be able to evacuate to a safer structure is very, very important.

- [INAUDIBLE] general, if I may, given the severity of the flooding we expect, what role do you expect the Guard to play in the aftermath of the storm?

- Really we're a support role. Whatever the Department of Emergency Management needs us to do. It could be everything from security to transportation. Aviation is a big part if we end up in search and rescue kind of scenarios. So, you know, we're kind of the Swiss army knife of, of operations. We can be used for whatever the Department of Emergency Management needs us to do.

- The governor alluded to seeing more assets. Can you be more specific about what type of assets may be [INAUDIBLE] surgical or--

- Yes. As we do our planning, it kind of changes every day. You know, yesterday we were looking at the potential even having to do air bridges into the Peninsula of Saint Petersburg, Clearwater. As the storm moves further South, we think that may not be quite the plan that we need to be looking at. So it kind of changes day to day as we see the updates in the hurricane and where it's going to be and what kind of potential damages and missions it might introduce for our forces.

So we're constantly reassessing. Some big things that we're looking for from out of state, additional aviation assets, so HH60s, CH47s, heavy lift capability to be able to move supplies, and people, and equipment. Search and rescue equipment and supplies also a big part of that.

So, you know, it really depends. It could be security depending on, you know, where we are and what the aftermath looks like as we go through the recovery stages. So we've got-- transportation's another big one, looking for high-water vehicles, as well as swift water vehicles if we end up with a flooding event where we're needing to get to folks who can't move by land. So really almost everything that you can imagine that the director might be needing some additional muscle on we'll be providing it.

- Thank you, sir.

- Yeah.

- This might be for Director Guthrie, but you keep talking about the flooding of surge. And it kind of reminds me of what happened with Katrina, where the damage and the threat was more flooding and surge. And you know, in advance of that, they got like 80% to 90% of New Orleans evacuated and managed to avoid a lot of serious stuff, but there were still people on rooftops, people in cars. Have you thought about that? Have you looked at Katrina as a potential model for what you need to do to respond here?

KEVIN GUTHRIE: Absolutely. You know, history is past performance-- the best predictor of future performance is past performance. So we look at-- we certainly look at all of those after action reports and take the best practices from them. And you know, that's one of the reasons that in the last question was just answered by the general. We're beefing up aviation assets so we can actually go out and do that recon after the disaster happened.

So if we have somebody in an island situation, or maybe even on a vehicle rooftop, or even, God forbid, an actual structure rooftop, these guys can help us locate that. And we can start moving ground assets into that situation, or if need be, we call them the Coast Guard, and the Coast Guard comes in and starts doing some type of aerial-type rescue. So all of those things are true. But, again, I want to reiterate what the governor just said. If people will heed evacuation orders-- and it goes back to Eric's question-- if they heed the evacuation order I have a 100% guarantee that they will not die from storm surge.

If they heed the evacuation order, I have a 100% guarantee that they will not have to be rescued off a rooftop if they heed the evacuation order. Where we're at right now is execute your plan. Start evacuating if you've been asked to evacuate.

RON DESANTIS: So we're going to be continuing to work with our local partners. I do want to thank everybody up here at the Florida Department of Emergency Management, everyone involved with the EOC. This was something that we saw coming when it was just, I guess, a disturbance coming in there, and we understood the potential. And so we've been working with, with all the local partners under a state of emergency. And I do really appreciate all the work that they've done.

The one thing about Florida, we have to deal with, with a lot of these threats. It's just, it's just something that you do when you live in a kind of a tropical paradise, but we're fortunate we have some of the strongest emergency management professionals in our counties anywhere in the country. And I think that they're, they're doing a great job. And they'll continue to serve the people of their community as well as we weather this over the next many days. Thanks, everybody.