Search and rescue efforts underway for hurricane victims
Special to Lake Okeechobee News
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — This morning, Governor Ron DeSantis issued updates on Hurricane Ian at the State Emergency Operations Center
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Search and rescue efforts underway for hurricane victims
The International Space Station shared this image of Hurricane Ian on Sept. 26. [Courtesy photo]
Special to Lake Okeechobee News
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — This morning, Governor Ron DeSantis issued updates on Hurricane Ian at the State Emergency Operations Center with Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. Full remarks are available here.
Since 1 a.m., search and rescue operations have been underway in response to Hurricane Ian. Urban Search and Rescue Team 2 was the first on site and the Coast Guard made dozens of rescues overnight. There are 8 USAR teams with more than 800 team members performing search and rescue. There are currently 42,000 lineman responding to the more than 2 million reported power outages. Floridians should continue to heed local weather warnings and listen to local officials for updated safety information.
Today, President Biden approved Governor DeSantis’ request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which unlocks federal assistance in affected areas for individuals; state, tribal, and local governments; and certain private nonprofit organizations. The Declaration makes federal funding available to governments and eligible nonprofit organizations in the affected areas for debris removal and emergency protective measures on a cost-sharing basis. Specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is authorized to cover 100 percent of eligible costs for a period of 30 days beginning from September 23, 2022. The Governor requested the Declaration immediately upon landfall of Hurricane Ian to ensure that the State can quickly move forward into response and recovery. The letter with this request can be found here.For assistance, visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.
The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to provide financial assistance to our communities as they respond to and recover from times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with public, private, and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. To contribute, please visit www.FloridaDisasterFund.org or text DISASTER to 20222.
State preparation and response efforts include:
Search and Rescue
Since 1 a.m., search and rescue operations have been underway in response to Hurricane Ian. Urban Search and Rescue Team 2 was the first on site and the Coast Guard made dozens of rescues overnight. There are eight USAR teams with more than 800 team members performing search and rescue.
The National Guard and the Coast Guard are landing helicopters on barrier islands to perform search and rescue.
Search and Rescue crews rallied at the Fort Myers Sports Complex and have been running operations for the past 5 hours.
Florida National Guard members are conducting incident awareness and assessment missions this morning in Sarasota, De Soto, Charlotte, Collier and Lee Counties. Throughout the day, the Florida Guard will be engaged in a multitude of missions including search and rescue and route clearance operations.
Last night, Florida National Guard Brig. Gen. Sean Boyette, Task Force Florida commander, was appointed the Dual Status Command (DSC) commander in anticipation of Title 10 active-duty forces being assigned to assist with recovery operations.
Following Governor DeSantis' authorization, a total of 5,000 Florida Guardsmen have been activated to State Active Duty for Hurricane Ian response operations. Up to 2,000 Guardsmen from neighboring states are also activated to assist.
Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM)
FDEM has compiled a Shelter in Place Survey to provide critical information to first responders in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. We are asking all individuals in the impact area of Hurricane Ian that made the decision to shelter in place to complete the survey. Please visit FloridaDisaster.org/Info to find the Shelter in Place Survey.
FDEM has activated the State Assistance Information Line (SAIL) to provide an additional resource for Floridians to receive up-to-date information regarding Hurricane Ian. Residents and visitors can call this toll-free hotline at 1-800-342-3557.
FDEM Liaisons have been identified and deployed to counties to provide on-site response assistance and to conduct damage assessments after the storm.
At the direction of FDEM Director and State Coordinating Officer Kevin Guthrie, Incident Management Teams (IMT) from Ohio and Colorado are on-scene to ensure additional support for response and recovery efforts after the storm.
FDEM is deploying several hundred shelter support staff to address staffing needs in counties that have opened their Special Needs hurricane shelters. Currently, more than 200 public shelters are open and available to impacted residents, with more than 50 of these being Special Needs Shelters.
FDEM is leading the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) for the Hurricane Ian response, with more than 350 SERT members staffing the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC).
FDEM has received more than 1,500 resource requests for Hurricane Ian. Over 1,300 of these requests are currently being processed and are either en route or being mobilized. This includes the coordination of resources such as: trucks of food and water, generators and water pumps.
FDEM has over 3.5 million meals and over 1.8 million gallons of bottled water in preparation for distribution to impacted areas.
Several hundred generators and pumps, in addition to debris equipment, have been staged for response and recovery efforts.
100,000 tarps to protect homes and allow more residents to stay at home rather than in a public shelter.
Two truckloads of blankets and five truckloads of cots to support displaced residents.
FDEM is currently coordinating the provision of meals for first responders staged in Orange County.
FDEM is in constant communication with all 67 county emergency management offices and state agencies to coordinate protective actions and needed resources ahead of potential storm impacts.
There are currently 2.5 million people without power.
More than 1.5 million of those outages are in 7 southwest Florida counties.
42,000 linemen from utilities across the state are working 24/7 to restore power.
125 Florida Highway Patrol Officers are transporting utility crews into the area.
Health and Human Services
AHCA has activated reporting in the Health Facility Reporting System (HFRS) and is requesting all health care providers report their census, available beds, evacuation status and generator status information. This information allows AHCA to assist health care providers in transferring patients if needed and ensure health care providers in impacted areas have the necessary resources and adequate power.
Patient Movement Mission (DOH 4052) is activated. This mission is a combined by AHCA, along with FHA, FHCA, LeadingAge, Florida Senior Living and Florida Assisted Living Associations.
This mission also supports the evacuation of nearly 8,000 patients and residents from more than 180 health care facilities.
Nearly 400 ambulances, paratransit busses, and support vehicles are responding to areas of anticipated landfall.
The Agency sent a Medicaid Provider Alert outlining Key Medicaid Information for Fee-For-Service and Managed Care Providers during Hurricane Ian, this can be found here.
AHCA has activated the Emergency Patient Look-Up System (E-PLUS). Special needs shelters for 16 counties are able to utilize the system to retrieve patient medical records. E-PLUS is also available to assist medical providers and emergency response personnel with locating missing or displaced persons after the storm.
The State Surgeon General has signed a letter to allow staff of the Department and Agency for Health Care Administration to travel past curfews across state lines to conduct any necessary health and safety actions, this can be found here.
AHCA has identified Home Medical Equipment providers that can assist with supplying oxygen supplies to Special Needs Shelters.
The Agency partnered with Florida Health Care Association and Florida Hospital Association to initiate statewide calls with long term care facilities and hospitals.
As of today, 100% of operating long-term care facilities have a generator on-site. The Generator Status Map for long-term care facilities is available here.
Overnight, the state has been monitoring several healthcare facilities on generator power, two healthcare facilities are in the process of evacuating.
400 additional nurses are moving into southwest Florida to assist.
APD regions are providing mutual aid to the impacted regions assisting with communicating to clients, providers, group homes, and employees.
APD is following up with all APD-licensed group homes in the affected areas to ensure all clients are safe.
No storm damage has currently been found at the Tacachale Center in Gainesville.
DOEA service providers around the state are in progress or have completed check-in and informational calls to their senior clients.
Area Agencies on Aging that are expected to be impacted by Hurricane Ian have been distributing shelf-stable meals to their home delivery meal clients.
Area Agencies on Aging in the affected areas are coordinating with other agencies to answer local Elder Helpline calls during power outages (1-800-96-ELDER).
The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will close the following locations for in person and procedure appointments:
C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center: Monday, September 26 through Thursday, September 29. This closure extends to the Emergency Department.
North Pinellas and St. Petersburg VA Clinics: Wednesday, September 28 and Thursday, September 29.
Sarasota, Bradenton, and Port Charlotte VA Clinics: Wednesday, September 28.
The Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans' Nursing Home in Port Charlotte is operational. Residents, staff and family members who sheltered in the home are safe and well. Hardened structure and roof are intact. The Veterans' Home is operating on generator power.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced health care facility closures in Florida for Thursday, Sept. 29. For details, visit https://www.floridavets.org/news/.
The State Surgeon General signed Emergency Order 22-004 authorizing licensed health care professionals in good standing from out of state to practice in Florida for the duration of the EO. These professionals include: Physicians, Osteopathic Physicians, Physician Assistants, Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Paramedics, and Emergency Medical Technicians. In addition, the following licensed health care professionals are authorized to practice in Florida via Telehealth: Physicians, Osteopathic Physicians, Physician Assistants, and Advanced Practice Nurses. The EO can be found here.
The State Surgeon General has signed Emergency Order 22-001 waiving statutory procurement requirements to ensure DOH is able to deploy necessary action due to Hurricane Ian. This can be found here.
The State Surgeon General has signed a letter to allow staff of the Department and Agency for Health Care Administration to travel past curfews across state lines to conduct any necessary health and safety actions.
DOH has coordinated with the Office of Insurance Regulation to distribute an alert regarding permitted early prescription refills during a State of Emergency. This alert was sent to health insurers, managed care organizations, health entities, and licensed health care providers. The alert can be found here.
DOH has coordinated with Federal partners to support the deployment of nearly 100 individuals through various health and medical teams. These teams stand ready in Orlando, Atlanta, and Warner Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.
DOH continues to coordinate across 67 county health departments on any necessary preparation resources, in coordination with county emergency managers.
Most of I-75, outside Charlotte and Lee Counties, is open.
Crews are working to re-open the rest of I-75.
There are several bridges and roads that remain closed.
FDOT has dispatched 100 engineers working in teams of 2 to perform bridge inspections.
FDOT has deployed 1,200 individuals to perform cut-and-toss operations.
FHP is assisting FDOT with bridge closures across impacted areas
Current conditions are highly hazardous. Please stay off the roadways until it is confirmed to be safe for travel.
Turnpike Service Plazas are closed at Fort Drum, Canoe Creek and Turkey Lake.
There are current Major Road and Bridge Closures. The list of closures as of 10 a.m., 9/29/22 is listed below. Up-to-date closures listed on FL511.com:
Brevard County Richy Road Southbound at US-1
DeSoto County SR 72 at SR 70
SR-100 Eastbound at N. Central Ave
Hardee County S.R. 64 East at Parnell Road
Indian River County Indian River Blvd at Royal Palm Poine
Lee County Pine Island Road Bridge
Manatee County John Ringling Causeway
Bridge at S.R. 64 / Manatee Ave East
Orange County I-4 Express at Kirkman
I-4 Express at MM 79
SR-551/ Goldenrod Road at Nolton Way
SR-520 at SR 528
Turnpike at Orange Blossom Trail On Ramp
SR 417 Exit 12
Osceola County Vermont Ave at 13th Street
W Vine St at John Young parkway
Columbia Ave at 13th Street
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Sarasota County John Ringling Causeway
Sumter County SR 50 at CR 773
US 301 a CR 470
Volusia County Ormond Beach – Granada Blvd at Halifax River – all lanes closed
Daytona Beach – Mason Ave at Tower St – both directions, all lanes closed
Daytona Beach – Main St at S. Halifax Ave – both directions, all lanes closed
Daytona Beach – East International Speedway Blvd at North Beach St – both directions, all lanes closed
Daytona Beach – East Orange Ave at South Beach Street – both directions, all lanes closed
Daytona Beach - Lytle Ave at Palmetto St - both directions, all lanes closed
Port Orange – Dunlawton Ave at Halifax Dr – both directions, all lanes closed
Port Orange – Dunlawton Ave at South Peninsula Dr – both directions, all lanes closed
North Causeway at Washington Street
Ports that are currently closed: Port of St. Petersburg , Seaport Manatee , Port of Fort Pierce , Port of Palm Beach, Port Canaveral, Port Fernandina, JAXPORT, Port of Key West.
Ports that are open: Port Tampa Bay, Port Everglades, PortMiami, Port of Pensacola, Port Panama City, Port St. Joe.
There 260 shelters open with 34,000 people.
295 truckloads of food and water are on their way into the area.
Over 3.5 million meals and over 1.8 million gallons of bottled water are being deployed to impacted areas.
34 licensed group homes have been evacuated across the state.
DCF is hosting daily callswith Managing Entities and Community Based Care lead agencies to remain apprised of all storm updates.
DCF is ensuring all Mental Health Treatment Facilities and methadone treatment programs are fully operational.
DCF is partnering with its community based care lead agencies to contact all caregivers/foster families with dependent children in their home to assess needs and ensure safety.
Florida Housing has ensured that all current listings are up to date in the event that families need to quickly relocate at www.FloridaHousingSearch.org.
Each SHIP office has an adopted disaster strategy that allows for assistance in the immediate aftermath of a declared disaster. Strategies may include temporary relocation and rental assistance, debris removal and short-term repairs to prevent further damage to the structure or to allow for occupancy until further repairs are made. Please contact your local office directly for more information: Local Government Information (floridahousing.org)
FHP has deployed a mobile command center to the State Emergency operations Center to provide enhanced communication capabilities and additional resources.
More than 1,700 sworn FHP members are ready to assist with enhanced evacuation and response efforts.
FHP has activated 12-hour Alpha, Bravo shifts for more than 500 Troopers across Florida gulf coast.
FHP has placed 330 Quick Reactionary Force troopers moving into affected areas quickly to provide immediate relief.
FHP is strategically utilizing high-water rescue vehicles to aid search and rescue and damage assessment efforts.
FHP has strategically using its fixed-wing aircraft to monitor traffic routes and to aid search and rescue and damage assessment efforts.
FHP has deployed its unmanned aerial vehicle teams to assist in search and rescue and damage assessment efforts.
FHP Regional Communications Centers are preparing to perform take-over services for other impacted FHP dispatch centers to ensure all state law enforcement officers continue to receive dispatch services.
FHP is providing liaisons to affected county emergency operations centers.
FHP encourages evacuating motorists to report disabled vehicles or dangerous driving conditions to *FHP (*347).
FLHSMV driver license and motor vehicle service center closures can be found here.
Waives specific requirements for commercial motor vehicles providing emergency relief; and
Waives the replacement fees for driver’s license and identification credentials, vehicle registrations and titles, vessel registrations and titles and temporary parking permits for impacted individuals.
78 FWC officers and 2 vehicle and vessel mechanics have deployed to the affected area with a full complement of four-wheel drive vehicles, vessels and response and recovery equipment and supplies.
15 FWC Special Operations Group officers from the Northwest Region have deployed with four-wheel drive vehicles and vessels to assist four Urban Search and Rescue Teams with response efforts.
15 FWC Special Operations Group officers from the Northeast Region have deployed with four-wheel drive vehicles and vessels to aid affected residents.
The FWC has deployed 1 mobile command trailer and 3 BERG units to provide communications and operational support to officers in the area while they respond to calls for assistance.
25 FWC officers from the Northwest Region are standing by to augment the first wave of response units, with additional four-wheel drive vehicles, vessels, UTVs, ATVs and other equipment.
In addition to public safety missions, FWC Special Operations Group (SOG) teams are serving as reconnaissance units for the State EOC and reporting back on the damage.
FWC Aviation Section is providing the EOC with aerial assistance, reconnaissance and post-storm damage assessments.
FDLE regional support and logistics teams throughout the state are preparing to deploy personnel and equipment for a ready response to the aftermath of the storm. FDLE has started pre-staging equipment and mobile command posts at strategic locations. Teams with chainsaws, tarps, and other supplies are assembling.
Private Sector Support
Partners including Walmart and Publix have indicated that they are constantly bringing additional supplies into the state to restock inventory.
Publix has delivered more than 700 truckloads of water equal to almost a million cases, delivered more than 3 million pounds of ice, and is storing double stores' normal volumes. Prior to closing stores impacted by the storm, Publix donated perishable products to local police, firefighters, and emergency response teams, and also ensured that associates that work nearby and prepare these stores for the storm received donated product for themselves and their families. Publix associates have diligently taken care of their customers, communities, and each other.
AT&Tis waiving talk, text, and data overage charges for AT&T Postpaid & PREPAID customers with billing addresses in 828 zip codes across Florida from September 28, 2022, through October 28, 2022, to keep customers connected before, during and after any major storm event.
Rosen Hotels and Resorts is activating their Florida Residents Distressed Rates to give Floridians a safe, affordable place to ride out Hurricane Ian. Evacuees can call 866-33-ROSEN (76736) to reserve a room.
VISIT Florida has activated the Emergency Accommodations Portal at Expedia.com/Florida, which is updated with the latest on available listings.
Lowe’s continues to have stores open in counties not directly impacted by Hurricane Ian to receive storm and recovery-related products, such as generators, water, gas cans, sand, plywood, batteries, flashlights, and other materials. Additionally, 30 fuel trucks are staged at Lowes store locations for re-entry after the storm. Lowe’s is leveraging its vast supply chain network to bring much needed response product into the state.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is getting the word out to lodging establishments to relax their pet policies and to share that there are still available hotels and other lodging available from Tallahassee to Pensacola and Palm Beach, Broward and Dade.
Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) is in regular communication with seaport, rail, airport, fuel, and power providers to coordinate between public and private sector partners ensuring that assistance, goods, and services during and after the storm are being delivered.
As families evacuate and create their emergency plans ahead of Hurricane Ian, UHaul is offering 30 days of free storage and U-Box container usage at 43 Florida locations. Find additional information at www.uhaul.com/about/ listed under “Top Stories.”
Private-sector partner, Uber, is offering round-trip rides to and from Southwest Florida shelter locations in Orange, Brevard, Seminole, Volusia, and Osceola counties listed at www.FloridaDisaster.org/PlanPrepare/Shelters. Riders can enter promotional code IANRELIEF in the app to redeem a free round-trip up to $30 each way. Rides must be requested to or from any state-approved evacuation shelter in Florida.
DEO is updating www.FloridaDisaster.biz with real-time information for business owners to prepare their businesses, families, and employees for Hurricane Ian.
DEO has alerted the statewide Community Action Agency (CAA) Network to initiate disaster preparedness activities following the Emergency Order.
DEO’s Secretary Dane Eagle distributed a memo on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, releasing $1.4 million in Low-Income Home Energy Assistant Program (LIHEAP) set-aside emergency funding for use by LIHEAP providers across the state to support preparedness activities such as transportation and temporary housing to preserve health and safety.
DEO’s Rebuild Florida team continues to monitor Hurricane Ian and is preparing to remobilize their disaster recovery efforts following a safe passage after the storm.
Career centers in the following counties may experience temporary closures following county closure announcements:
CareerSource Gulf Coast
CareerSource North Florida
CareerSource Florida Crown
CareerSource Northeast Florida
CareerSource North Central Florida
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
CareerSource Flagler Volusia
CareerSource Central Florida
CareerSource Tampa Bay
CareerSource Pasco Hernando
CareerSource Research Coast
CareerSource Palm Beach County
CareerSource South Florida
CareerSource Southwest Florida
VISIT FLORIDA has activated its Emergency Accommodations Module on Expedia to provide real-time hotel availability and lodging resources for impacted Floridians and visitors.
VISIT FLORIDA is working with expedia and their partners to encourage flexible pet policies and cancellation/change fees.
Enterprise Florida activated its Disaster Assistance page with a list of state and federal resources available for businesses to utilize in their mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery activities.
Florida Department of Education (DOE)
DOE is working with all superintendents in the impacted areas to coordinate damage assessments and identify resources that will be needed to support these counties.
At the peak of the storm, 59 school districts were closed. 20 school districts have confirmed they will open either tomorrow or Monday.
Early Learning Coalitions have closed in the following counties: Bradford, Baker, Brevard, Broward, Citrus, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Hendry, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Levy, Martin, Manatee, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Putnam, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Volusia.
The Florida Department of Education is consistently updating its website with school district closures, as well as State University System and Florida College System Closures.
For a full list of school district, university and college closures, visit fldoe.org/storminfo.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Following the issuance of the Governor’s Executive Order, DEP issued an Emergency Final Order waiving permitting requirements for the storage and processing of solid waste, including storm debris.
DEP has also issued an Emergency Final Order to expedite necessary repair, replacement and restoration of structures, equipment, surface water management systems, works and other systems damaged by the storm.
Inspectors completed pre-storm beach surveys in all shoreline counties.
Hazardous Area Response Teams are preparing for potential assessment and deployment to impacted areas.
All significant Hazardous Waste facilities within the affected counties have been contacted to ensure all pre-storm landfall preparations are being made.
Visitors with existing camping and cabin reservations at impacted parks will be notified of their reservation status.
WaterTracker is active, DEP’s online portal for wastewater and drinking water facilities to report their operational status.
100 portable cell phone towers are deploying into the area to support connectivity in Southwest Florida.
The Telecommunications Division is working with telecom partners to ensure that the state’s communications networks have redundancies and remain operational for first responders to respond to Floridians during the storm.
DBPR Emergency Order 2022-01 extends the renewal deadline from September 30 or October 1, 2022, to October 31, 2022, for the following licenses:
Real Estate: Sales Associates, Broker Sales Associates, Brokers, Corporate Brokers, Partnerships, and Corporations and Branch Offices;
Alcoholic Beverages: Retail Vendors, Distributors, Manufacturers, Importers, Brokers, Sales Agents, and Passenger Common Carriers;
Drugs, Devices, and Cosmetics: Prescription Drug Wholesalers, Prescription Drug Wholesaler – Broker Only, Out-of-State Prescription Drug Wholesalers, and All Other DDC Licenses;
Hotels and Restaurants: Public Lodging Establishments, Vacation Rentals, Timeshare Projects, and Public Food Service Establishments; and
Community Association Managers.
Licenses renewed on or before October 31, 2022 shall be considered as timely renewals and will not be assessed any late fees.
DBPR Emergency Order 2022-01 also extends the deadline for the filing of monthly reports and returns by certain alcoholic beverage and tobacco license holders from October 10, 2022, to October 31, 2022. Additionally, the order suspends and tolls through October 31, 2022, all final orders reflecting final agency action and all time requirements and deadlines for filing responses outlined in agency orders.
DBPR’s Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics is coordinating with wholesale distributors of prescription drugs and medical gases to provide information and support relating to exceptions for the emergency distribution of these critical supplies where needed.
Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR)
OIR issued Emergency Order 300997-22-EO in response to Hurricane Ian regarding the extension of grace periods, limitations on cancellations and nonrenewals, deemers and limitations on “use and file” filings. This Emergency Order is issued to protect the public health, safety and welfare of all Florida policyholders.
OIR instituted a data call for the purpose of collecting catastrophe claims data related to Hurricane Ian. OIR is requiring daily catastrophe claims reporting for Hurricane Ian starting Friday, September 30 to assist with determining the impact of Hurricane Ian on Florida’s insurance industry. More information regarding catastrophe claims data and reporting is available here.