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FEMA administrator: Communities have ‘long road to recovery’ after Hurricane Ian

A car is submerged in flood water in North Port, Fla., on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Adriana Gomez Licon)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell said after touring the damages from Hurricane Ian in Florida that some communities have a “long road to recovery.”

“The impacts are devastating,” she told co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“The western coast of Florida, many homes completely destroyed, several that are damaged, communities that are going to have a long road to recovery,” Criswell continued. “But we also saw homes that are still underwater in the central part of Florida as Ian caused intense flooding as it crossed the state.”

Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon near Fort Myers as a Category 4 hurricane, causing major storm surges, destructive winds and heavy flooding. 

The storm’s large size led to widespread damages across the state, and the death toll has surpassed 50 people as of Sunday, including some deaths in North Carolina and Cuba.

Criswell said on CNN that first responders are still conducting “primary searches,” which involve them going door-to-door to account for residents.

“While we certainly hope that we can continue to find more people alive and bring them out, we’re going to support the state and their needs,” Criswell said.

Bash on Sunday also pressed Criswell on FEMA’s flood maps, which do not recognize some areas that bore the brunt of Ian’s impact as at-risk regions. 

The designation heightens flood insurance requirements for homebuyers, and thousands of residents in Florida’s Lee and Charlotte counties who did not previously purchase insurance could now face large out-of-pocket costs.

Criswell said the agency is working on updating its maps, but she urged residents in at-risk areas to preemptively purchase a plan for their home.

“I think anybody who lives near water should certainly purchase flood insurance, because it’s your No. 1 tool to help protect your family and your home after the storm,” Criswell said.

When asked if it is worth rebuilding in some coastal areas particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, Criswell said people “need to understand what their risk is.”

“We need to make sure that as we rebuild, we’re at least rebuilding with the current building codes that are going to protect and reduce the impacts of these storms,” she told Bash.

Tags Dana Bash Deanne Criswell Deanne Criswell FEMA Florida Hurricane Ian

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