After initial complaints about the hurricane response, and some pre-storm criticisms, the press has little to say as the recovery impressively takes place.
There was a curious news item at CNN, regarding an announcement concerning the upcoming election in the storm-torn areas of southwest Florida. Due to infrastructure damage and other physical challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, contingencies will be put in place to facilitate the ability to vote for residents adversely affected.
In the three counties most affected by the storm, early voting will be extended. Also, Sarasota, Charlotte, and especially Lee Counties will have broadened early voting sites, and restrictions have been lifted requiring citizens to cast votes in their precincts. Another move was to have the option of mail-in ballots sent to an alternative address for those in the affected areas.
These are all sound and pragmatic responses, considering common voting locations like schools and municipal facilities are likely damaged or inaccessible. What makes these decisions surprising, to some, is that they were handed down via executive order of Governor Ron DeSantis. You know, the alleged state leader who the press insists is authoritarian and strives to restrict his citizens, as all he seems to do is lead through the act of granting freedoms.
It is not surprising to see DeSantis act in opposition to media claims, as most of the critiques aimed at him are based on insisted-upon claims, not actual evidence. Recall, this is the governor who was labeled as a “fascist” when he granted Floridians the option of wearing a mask or not. Those pushing for government-mandated vaccines and mask requirements were charging DeSantis as a totalitarian – because he gave people the liberty to govern themselves.
Meanwhile, the media who were insisting that DeSantis was bungling the hurricane recovery have simmered down, their silence a sign of just how well things have transpired. The advance efforts made in tandem between DeSantis and FEMA saw quick response into the hardest hit areas. One underreported aspect is that this week, a second bridge repair to a cut-off island has already been finished, as Sanibel Island saw relief crews making their way onto the island. These bridges were hoped to be fixed enough for the crews by the end of the month.
Absolutely amazing to see emergency vehicles full of resources crossing the newly repaired #Sanibel Causeway today. Kudos to @GovRonDeSantis, @KevinGuthrieFL, and @FDOT_Secretary and everyone involved in making this a reality just weeks after Hurricane #Ian. pic.twitter.com/3fM3pXdCNq
— Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis) October 11, 2022
Another surprising result has been the restoration of electric connections in the affected areas. Over 2 million residents lost power after the storm hit, and I spoke with someone involved in the restoration efforts. After spending two weeks in the hardest-hit areas of Fort Meyers, they detailed to me how bad some of the conditions were, but also how well they are progressing.
One of the challenges they faced was homes enduring flooding levels so high that it impacted connectivity efforts. You can see the high water mark on some homes eight or higher. The issue is in these cases the electric meter boxes at a residence were submerged, and reconnecting meant a risk of the box failing, bringing a threat to the structure. The residents had to sign liability waivers if they could be located; evacuation made this a challenge. Then once a grid was brought back online a technician went from house to house to restore the connections.
One other hindrance they ran into was the number of boats that were deposited on power lines. The problem here was as they cleared all other debris from roads and areas, they could not remove the vessels, due to insurance requirements. Not until the owner was contacted, and then the insurer, could they remove the boats impacting the recovery. Apart from the myriad unforeseen after-effects, the preparations were vital.
— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) October 14, 2022
Thousands of electrical service personnel had been brought in before Ian made landfall. Florida officials had never experienced such an effort, leading to them getting work done in an amazing amount of time. One of the areas they staged these workers was at the Florida Panthers hockey arena, in Sunrise. Southeast Florida was unaffected, and that location is near the roadway leading across the state to the hardest hit areas.
They were mobilized as soon as the west coast was clear, and could get to work on restoring services at a rate not seen in previous storms. As it stands today, of the over two million who lost power, over 95% of services have been restored. Now consider this was a rare Category-4 landfall, and these results become more impressive.
It will still be years before things return to the level they had been, but to this point, Florida is seeing some relief, and it is arriving in a timeframe not expected.
(If interested in lending assistance, Team Rubicon is a great outfit, as they send in military vets to assist with recovery efforts.)