Rep Ron DeSantis (R-FL) joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about Florida’s efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irma. He warned that Irma remains a “very powerful storm,” even though it slipped from Category 5 down to Category 4 as it approached the Florida coast.
“It is going to be in the area of Cuba and the Bahamas today,” he said. “The problem with this thing is obviously any time a hurricane gets near you there are to be problems, but they’ve tracked this to where it’s basically going to hit at the bottom of Florida, the Florida Keys, a little bit in the Miami area, and then just go up the whole spine of the state. That’s going to cause problems on both the West and the East Coast of Florida, just because the storm is so big.”
“They have it hitting landfall as a Category 4, but then it will go all the way up to Orlando and it will still be a Category 2. So there is a lot of danger right now in Florida, particularly southern Florida. There are counties that have been evacuated, people need to heed those warnings,” he urged.
“One of the problems with this storm track is that you did have people who saw this storm on the horizon a couple of days ago, in say like the Florida Keys, and they evacuated. We have some people that have evacuated to, say, the west coast of Florida. Well, the west coast of Florida may not be safe on this. You have people that evacuated from Miami to Orlando, or to Jacksonville. That may not be safe. It looks very unlikely that it will be safe,” he warned.
“It’s a mammoth of a storm. Unless things change dramatically with the track, it’s going to hit Florida in a way that’s going to be very devastating,” said DeSantis.
Marlow added a caution about the dangers of panicked evacuation during a hurricane, pointing out the dangers of being caught in a massive traffic jam as hurricane conditions roll in.
DeSantis advised paying close attention to local emergency managers. “They are looking at this. They’re not going to make that decision to evacuate lightly because, as you say, there are costs with having to evacuate people, and if the storm is not going to present a threat based on where you are in the state, then they’re not going to want to do that.”
“Our governor, Rick Scott, has been very forward-leaning,” Desantis said. “He does a great job dealing with these storms. He’s out there providing the information so that people can make decisions about, okay, if you are ordered to evacuate, where do you evacuate to?”
“The thing is, they’re going to close Miami Airport, I think it’s closing today, Orlando tomorrow. Flying is probably the best way to get out of Dodge, particularly in southern Florida, but you may not have that option. I think that time is running out,” he cautioned.
“There are also people, based on this track, who flew to Atlanta a day or two ago. Well, now it looks like this storm is going to go through Atlanta. It ought to lose a lot of steam as it goes over the whole Florida peninsula and is over the land, but you could have some tropical-force winds in Atlanta at the beginning of next week, so it’s just a really, really difficult situation,” he said.
“The storm is so big, what will happen is you’ll have hurricane-force winds on both coasts of Florida, and you’ll also have the eye of the storm going over the center of the state, over Lake Okeechobee, then it will work its way up to Orlando. So you’ll see wind damage there,” he anticipated.
“Normally when the hurricanes come, it’s one of the coastal areas. It’s just going to test the entire state. It will be much more difficult to respond to all this,” DeSantis warned.
“One of the issues that we’re going to see is that where FEMA has pre-positioned people, thinking that the storm was maybe going to run up the East Coast of Florida, they’re now going to be probably in the storm, either in Florida or in nearby states. It’s a very, very difficult thing,” he observed.
“I was just trying to get a sense of what people were doing, and I looked at hotels in Orlando yesterday morning, and every one of them it seemed was sold out. But Orlando right now is scheduled to see the eye of the storm go over it! It will be a weakened storm by then, but just sitting in a strange hotel with a Category 2 hurricane passing you by, that’s not a picnic. That’s not really evacuating to safety. I mean, you’re still in it. It may not be as bad as being in Miami, but there’s really not a lot of places to go in Florida where you’re just going to be totally out of the woods,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis mentioned allegations of price-gouging against airlines charging exorbitant prices for the last few tickets out of South Florida, but commended airlines such as JetBlue for capping the price of flights out of Florida at $99.
“If you can get on those flights, that’s probably the easiest way to do it, because if you’re going from South Florida, I-95, the Florida Turnpike, you eventually get to 75, that’s just going to be a total disaster,” he warned.
“They’re doing everything they can with the fuel. We’re boating in fuel, we’re escorting fuel down. That’s something that hopefully will be at least tolerable. But man, you can’t guarantee it. It ain’t like you can just get in your car on a normal day and just pull off to the Shell station, you’re fine. When you’re driving all that way, it’s more difficult,” he noted.
“Not everyone is going to have the option to fly, but if you can get on a plane and fly, I would do that. Spend the money. You’ll be much safer that way,” DeSantis advised.
Marlow noted that Florida has not seen a Category 4 hurricane make landfall in 25 years, and has not experienced a Category 3 strike in 12 years, so the effects of Irma are difficult to predict.
“I will say this: what happened with Harvey, and those images, I think that really disturbed a lot of people in Florida, so i think people are being super cautious about protecting themselves, evacuating if they’re told to evacuate,” DeSantis observed.
“When we had Matthew brush the coast last year, we had not had a hurricane hit in, as you said, over ten years,” he recalled. “Just think, ten years ago in Florida, how many millions of people have moved there? You had millions of people who have never experienced a hurricane, and there was a fear that people were not going to heed the warnings, who didn’t quite understand the severity of that.”
“Well, there’s no doubt now, I think after seeing the Harvey devastation – that’s a different type of storm, because it was a lot of rainfall and it triggered a lot of flooding, but I think people see that, and I think that’s one of the reasons the roadways have been clogged for three days now, because people just don’t want to take any chances to their lives and their safety. That’s a good thing,” he said.
DeSantis observed that while many other models predicted Hurricane Irma would travel up the East Coast of Florida or even pass out into the Atlantic, the European model proved more accurate in anticipating its landfall towards the middle of the southern coast.
“Everything else has converged on that so far,” he noted. “I’m hoping the European model is wrong and that it still can take a right turn, but boy, every data point we’ve gotten in the last 36 hours suggests that the European model had it right.”
“The European model is a worldwide model, so they are factoring in things that are happening all over the world, trying to see how that influences the different weather patterns,” he explained. “So far in the tracking, they’ve tracked it much more accurately than a lot of the other models for this storm, but then they also have a very good reputation.”
“In fact, if you look at their model, we were hoping that there would be a turn north before it reached Florida, so it would be on the Atlantic. What they’re suggesting is it could potentially even go a little further west. In fact, the National Hurricane Center, they moved their guidance this morning for the eye of the storm to be a little further west, basically going up the state to Orlando, then kind of going northwest towards Atlanta. So you’re really looking at it riding I-75 in a lot of ways,” DeSantis reported.
“Everything has converged more on what they’re doing, but if that trend continues, it could potentially disfavor the West Coast of Florida more than the East Coast, which nobody was saying just 48 hours ago,” he noted.
DeSantis said Floridians understand hurricanes as part of life, even though it has been many years since the last direct hit.
“It’s similar to where you go up to the Northeast, like Boston, you could get 12 inches of snow dumped on you, they salt the roads and people are driving the next day,” he said, contrasting that with Marlow’s example of an unusual light snowfall virtually shutting down Atlanta a few years ago, because residents of that city are unprepared for dealing with snow.
“There’s a lot of preparation done. Each county has an emergency management team, they have an operations center. I’ll be going to some of those in my district today, to make sure they have what they need from the federal government,” DeSantis said. “They’re really making the calls about evacuating. There will probably be a lot of bridges that get closed down in southern Florida because it will just be too dangerous.”
“Those calls we’ll be making, and then you have the governor, who’s really kind of quarterbacking. He’s not making the decisions for the local communities per se, but he’s directing all the state resources to be able to do rapid response. Rick Scott has been ahead of this thing. He’s been banging the drum about this for over a week, so he’s made sure that we have things in place,” he said.
“And then you have the federal government as kind of the backstop, and the president has been wonderful in saying, ‘You guys have the resources.’ President Trump has been very engaged in this,” said DeSantis.
“But really, you go back to the Katrina stuff, Katrina was a bad storm, but in places like Florida, and Alabama, and Mississippi, it was handled because you had local officials and you had state governors who were really engaged and knew what they were doing. Louisiana obviously had a lot of problems. You had an incompetent mayor, and you had an incompetent governor. FEMA was making mistakes for sure, but really it’s that front line. Our local officials take it seriously, and they have to, because their constituents’ lives can be at stake in these things,” he said.
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