Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Buzz

on Florida Politics

‘We will get help to everybody’: Rick Scott urges patience after Hurricane Michael

As thousands of first responders and 3,500 National Guard descended upon Florida's Gulf Coast, many across Florida and beyond are left asking: what is the state's plan?

Gov. Rick Scott asked for patience and understanding Thursday as the country turns its eyes to the mess of a Panhandle Hurricane Michael left in its wake.

"It's going to be a lot of work, but we will get help to everybody," Scott said at a 9:40 a.m. briefing. He spent the early part of the morning making national television appearances. "We will stop at nothing to keep people safe."

The areas that took the brunt of the storm are spread out, officials said, with very few access points where they can receive aid.

As of last night, the Coast Guard ran 10 rescue missions. Search and rescue teams have moved into Panam City, Mexico Beach, Tyndall, Alligator Point and Carrabelle.

In Mexico Beach, the Florida National Guard rescued 20 people, who were not injured.

The storm is being blamed for two deaths so far — a man hit by a falling tree in Gadsen County and an 11-year-old girl in Southwest Georgia.

Across the Panhandle, more than 400,000 homes and businesses were left without power, including four hospitals that required rescues for ICU and NICU patients.

Places like Sacred Heart in Pensacola evacuated 200 patients. Gulf Coast Hospital moved out 145.

Field hospitals are in the process of being set up, and could likely serve the community for a long time. After Hurricane Irma, a field hospital operated in the Florida Keys for more than a year.

In Chattahoochee, where the state's largest mental hospital is located, was left "entirely cut off." The facility's 1,400 patients and staff had no electricity, water or ways to communicate with the outside world.

Thursday morning, rescue groups were dropping food and water to the facility via helicopter.

State emergency officials said the mission over the next few weeks will be "extraordinary."

As of late Thursday morning, all eastbound lanes of I-10 remained closed from US 331, mile marker 85 to the Apalachicola River at mile marker 160. All westbound lanes are closed from the Apalachicola River to SR 77, mile marker 120

Scott said there is not yet an estimate on how much the storm caused in damages. The governor is going to Panama City and Mexico Beach to "survey damage" later today.

As of late Thursday morning, 3,534 people were staying in shelters, not including the 1,768 staying in special needs shelter facilities.

Pre-landfall, just 3,500 people were counted in shelters. Overnight, that number rose to 6,500, which is "nothing," per state emergency officials.

Officials said the staggering amount of people who did not take shelter could be newly homeless, and the state expects a massive surge in need short-term and long-term sheltering.

So far, 2 million meals, 1 million gallons of drinking water and 400,000 pounds of ice are being distributed to the affected areas.

Scott had phone calls scheduled with President Donald Trump, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA administrator Brock Long earlier this morning, and said the federal government is "committed" to sending as much assistance as the state requires.

"During disasters, we take care of each other," Scott said. "We will recover, and we will do it together. "

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