Senator Marco Rubio and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell on Sunday detailed the destruction Ian caused in Florida as Rubio said there is “no comparison” between the deadly hurricane and past storms. .
“I don’t think it compares, not in Florida,” Rubio, a Florida Republican, told “This Week” co-host Jonathan Karl. “Fort Myers Beach is no more. It will have to be rebuilt. It will be something different. It was a part of old Florida that cannot be brought back.”
“There is a lot of devastation. Significant damage at the point of impact on the west coast of Florida,” Criswell added.
Ian made landfall last week in western Florida before sweeping through the mid- and upper regions of the state, leaving homes swept away and significant flooding in its wake. Search and rescue operations are ongoing, but the death toll in Florida was 72 as of Sunday morning, according to local officials.
There have also been four deaths in North Carolina, where Ian struck after passing through Florida, and several deaths in Cuba, which was hit before Florida.
Both Rubio and Criswell emphasized on “This Week” that federal officials have been working hand-in-hand with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“I spent the entire day with Governor DeSantis on Friday and wanted to really hear what his concerns were and what resources he might need to help support this,” Criswell told Karl. “I made a commitment to him that we would continue to contribute resources to meet the needs, not just for this response and stabilization, but as they move forward with recovery efforts.”
Asked by Karl if forecast models were wrong in projecting Ian’s path or if local officials should have called for evacuations sooner, Criswell said the hurricane had been “pretty unpredictable in the days leading up to landfall,” when Ian was it quickly became the deadliest hurricane to hit the state in 60 years.
“This is going to be a long road to recovery,” Criswell acknowledged. He added: “We are accounting for everyone who was in the path of the storm and checking every home to make sure no one is left behind.”
Criswell, the former chief of emergency management for New York City, was confirmed as FEMA administrator last year. He took over an agency that disburses billions in aid across the country, but has also faced scrutiny and criticism for his work.
“FEMA has … everyone has been fantastic,” Rubio said Sunday. “The federal response from day one is very positive … and we’re grateful for that.”
Karl pressed Rubio several times in a 2013 vote he cast against Hurricane Sandy recovery funds, with Rubio arguing that Sandy’s relief included unrelated expenses.
Karl asked if Rubio would also insist that disaster money for his state be voted on without non-emergency additions and, if so, if he was prepared to vote against such funding if it were part of a larger package.
“What we are going to ask for Florida is what we support for every other state in the country that has been affected by natural disasters, and that is emergency aid designed to be sent immediately to help affected people now,” Rubio said. .
Karl asked Criswell about FEMA’s work in Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona last month. Criswell noted that 90% of people on the island have power back on since the storm. “We have not stopped our response efforts and our recovery efforts,” he said.