PERRY, FLORIDA — Governor Ron DeSantis made the 50-mile drive south from Tallahassee to Perry on Wednesday afternoon to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Idalia.
Speaking at a press conference, the governor pointed out that extensive work will be required to clean up the impacted areas.
“It’s going to be a lot that’s going to be required to clean this up and get everything back up and running again,” he said. “We haven’t had a storm take this path at this level since the 1890’s […] This is something that’s a really big deal.”
Idalia hit Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday morning. By 12:30 pm, the eye of the storm had moved out of the state and into Southeast Georgia.
“There’s parts of Florida that have had these things happen and they’ve built up infrastructure in response to it,” he added. “This part of the state hasn’t necessarily seen a storm like this in quite some time, so that’s just going to present some challenges.”
NO CONFIRMED FATALITIES
DeSantis said he spoke to Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett, who told him they had not received reports of any fatalities to this point. At his 12:30 pm press conference in Tallahassee, the governor told reporters that the state had not yet confirmed any fatalities.
“They did get a lot of water down there, there’s no question,” he said. “They have not received any call regarding fatalities as a result of that storm surge. But that’s up to this point, we’ll see what happens as people go down there. There’s going to be a lot that needs to be done there.”
DeSantis indicated that the state’s evacuation orders helped keep residents out of harm’s way.
“Clearly the storm surge was enough to potentially be life-threatening if people didn’t take proper precautions, but I think most people did – and they probably protected themselves and their families as a result,” he said.
The Florida Department of Transportation is working to clear roadways of fallen trees and other debris in order to clear the way for additional assistance to arrive. FDOT is also bringing generators to help restore power to traffic signals that are stopped due to power outages.
“By and large, the roads are probably better than what I would have thought just given the severity of the storm,” DeSantis said. “There’s a lot here for sure, but we were able to get from Tallahassee down here [with] no problem.”
“YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT”
The governor also said there have been reports of looting in Steinhatchee, located 40 miles south of Perry in Taylor County.
“We are not going to tolerate looting in the aftermath of a natural disaster,” DeSantis said. “I’d also just remind potential looters: You never know what you're walking into. People have a right to defend their property. [In] this part of Florida, you got a lot of advocates and proponents of the Second Amendment and I’ve seen signs in different people’s yards after these disasters and I’d say it’s probably [true] here: 'You loot, we shoot.’
“You never know what’s behind that door. These are people who are going to defend themselves and their families,” he continued. “We’re going to hold you accountable from a law enforcement perspective at a minimum and it could even be worse than that, depending on what’s behind that door.”