Volusia County on the Atlantic coast of Florida faces the continued threat of flooding more than a week after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who toured the county Friday, said inland areas still have a lot of standing water that doesn’t have anywhere to go.
Officials are monitoring areas along the St. Johns River, Volusia County Emergency Manager Jim Judge said.
“We’ve been delivering thousands of sandbags almost every day out to those areas to help those folks,” Judge said.
According to the National Weather Service, a gauge on the river near Astor was at 4.38 feet, about 2 feet over flood stage, on Friday.
“Historic rainfall from Hurricane Ian will cause levels along the Saint Johns River to remain high as rainfall drains into the basin,” the weather service said in a flood warning. “River levels at Astor are forecast to tick back up to 4.5 ft this weekend and will remain in Major flood stage for the foreseeable future. Interests along the river will continue to see major flood impacts through next week.”
Hurricane Ian brought approximately $263 million worth of damage so far to Volusia County from the coast to St. Johns River, Judge said.
“We estimate about 6,000 homes have been inundated, 1,000 businesses, hotels and motels damaged. We have about 1,000 homes along the St Johns that are in danger of flooding,” he said.
DeSantis told reporters that as of noon Friday, every county in the state had power for at least 80% of its customers and crews continued to work on bringing it back to those who don’t.
“We’re down to the – basically except for some pockets in Lake County, you know, people are going to have power unless their home was damaged and they can’t receive power or unless you have a total restoration of the system, unfortunately, like we have in a couple places and particularly these barrier islands,” the governor said.
Close to 87,000 customers in the state are without power as of Friday night, with more than 66,000 homes and business in Lee County in the dark, according to PowerOutage.us.
A total of 45 million bottles of water and 2.5 million pounds of ice have been distributed throughout damage-stricken areas, DeSantis said.
“We’ve now cleared 5,200 miles of roadway, and there have been 2,507 bridges that have been inspected and reopened, and many of those were done very quickly after the storm and so that just keeps traffic flowing and keeps everything going,” he said.
DeSantis said that he and his wife, Casey, are enlisting help from the private sector and charitable groups for a fund that will help victims of Ian who may not be able to be helped by government or state programs.
“We’re looking at Lee County, they have four schools that are likely going to be total losses, and so that’s going to be a lot of kids, but then you have teachers that have lost homes,” he said. “So, there’s a whole big, big need, I think, and I think that that fund is going to make a really big difference,”
Floridians have been impressively resilient, he said.
“There are times when you have to face difficult circumstances,” he added. “You just got to get back up. You got to fight on, and that’s what people in Florida are doing, and so I thank them for really providing great spirit, great determination, and we’ll end up getting through this much stronger.”
Hurricane Ian made landfall September 28 near Cayo Costa in southwestern Florida as a strong Category 4 storm. It became a tropical storm as it crossed the peninsula and moved into the Atlantic. As it headed north, it strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane and made another landfall, in South Carolina.
At least 125 people died because of Ian, officials said – 120 of them in Florida and five in North Carolina. The death toll was revised down Friday after the medical examiner in Lee County reclassified some deaths as non-storm-related, according to Sheriff Carmine Marceno.