Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing back on questions about the delayed evacuation order for Lee County, part of the Sunshine State hit particularly hard by Hurricane Ian.
In a CNN clip shared by his 2022 campaign’s rapid response Twitter account, a reporter asks the governor, ‘Why do you stand by Lee County’s decision not to have the mandatory evacuation until the day before the storm?’
‘Well, did you – where was your industry when the storm hit? Were you in Lee County? No, you were in Tampa, DeSantis said.
‘They followed the weather and they had to make decisions based on that.
Local and state officials have come under scrutiny after Lee County residents were placed under evacuation orders last week, just a day before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall, giving many Floridians little time to escape its path.
Sanibel Island, Fort Myers and Cape Coral are among the places where the devastation is most prominent – the only bridge connecting Sanibel Island to the US mainland collapsed during the storm, forcing rescuers to frantically search for survivors only by water and by air.
DeSantis said Saturday that Lee County was not initially expected to be in the hurricane’s path.
“You know, 72 hours, they weren’t even in the cone,” he said, referring to storm projections.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was confronted with the delayed evacuation order for Lee County, which was among the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ian
‘forty-eight hours, they were on the periphery, so you have to make the decisions as best you can.’
The governor continued to defend local officials, suggesting they were prepared for a mass evacuation event given the short window — and insisting residents were not trapped.
“I would say, you know, they delivered the message to people, they had shelters open, everybody had adequate opportunity to at least get to a shelter in the county,” DeSantis said.
‘A lot of the residents didn’t want to do that – I think for various reasons, some people just don’t want to leave their homes, period, they’re island people.’
He then blamed the media for its focus on other areas of the state, claiming: ‘I think part of it was so much attention was given to Tampa that I think a lot of them probably thought, that they would not get the worst. that.’
Hurricane Ian has been blamed for more than 80 deaths in Florida alone and more than 100 nationwide.
More than 80 people have died in Florida alone after the powerful storm ravaged the state
Among the areas of Lee County hardest hit were Fort Myers (pictured), Sanibel Island and Cape Coral
Progressive Florida-based attorney Daniel Uhlfelder hit back at DeSantis’ comments in an interview with Raw Story, insisting that Lee County’s elderly residents needed more time to get out than they were getting.
“There are a lot of older people who need extra time to come out and just play games — I just can’t believe it,” Uhlfelder said, calling DeSantis’ defense “Trumpian.”
He told CNN: “What am I going to do? Pull people out of their house?” None! And to try to misdirect it to the media where they were, I think that’s just irresponsible.’
DeSantis’ predecessor in Tallahassee, GOP Sen. Rick Scott, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that more information was needed about Lee County’s hurricane planning.
When asked if Lee County’s delayed evacuation order was a mistake, Scott replied: ‘I think the way you have to look at it is that every loss of life, you have to say to yourself, what can you do differently next time, so it never happens there again?’
‘I want to know because one problem I had as governor is trying to say, what did I learn to try to make sure we don’t lose a life?’ He continued.
“And so I think everybody in every single one of these emergency operations centers has to say to themselves… OK, so what do we do to make sure we don’t lose a life?”