Gov. DeSantis tours storm-battered Flagler County

FLAGLER BEACH, Florida. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Flagler Beach on Sunday and surveyed the damage caused by Hurricane Ian.

Now the focus is on rebuilding, filing insurance claims and preparing for the next hit.

“It was a big, damaging storm,” DeSantis said in an interview with News4JAX. “What impressed me the most is the resilience of the people and it was just all hands on deck.”

DeSantis greeted well-wishers and met with local officials who highlighted the need to stop beach erosion.

“The things that were done in Matthew worked well, but now we don’t have any dunes. The next storm, a Nor’easter, will wipe it all out,” said Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson.

“We have almost $5 million from FDT to start a nutrition project, but given the state of the economy, that won’t be enough,” said Faith Alkhatib, a Flagler County engineer.

DeSantis said he will sign off on those corrections if local Assemblyman Paul Renner, R District 24, gets them into the budget.

Ian caused $10.6 million in damage to more than 200 homes, according to Flagler County.

“I think part of the problem is going to be most of the damage, I think for homes, especially outside of the barrier islands in Southwest Florida, flood damage is likely,” DeSantis said.

The governor also said there is individual support from FEMA and the Florida Disaster Fund.

The destructive power of recent hurricanes can be seen on Flagler Beach. The fishing pier is a community icon and is now closed having lost about 160 feet from Ian and was already shortened by about the same amount from Hurricane Matthew.

Global climate models predict that hurricanes are likely to cause more intense rainfall and flooding due to a warming climate and rising sea levels, according to NASA.

“When I became governor, we struggled to create a resilient Florida program that is now in effect,” DeSantis said. “We’ve made over $1.1 billion over the last two years.”

The program helps raise levees, raise roads and improve drainage.

Some Florida residents are worried about skyrocketing property insurance costs.

“I went from $2,000 to $5,000 this year,” said Jeff Meyer of Flagler Beach.

So far this year, half a dozen non-life insurance companies have been declared bankrupt due to a number of factors, including high litigation costs.

A spokesman noted that DeSantis said earlier this week he thinks the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance should be able to pay out claims for Ian and that insurance companies are regulated and were able to pass a stress test earlier this year.

Florida lawmakers have called for additional reforms of the state’s property insurance market to provide consumer relief.

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