Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Reports are still pouring in, but Joe Biden has already been suggesting this storm could be “the deadliest hurricane” in the history of the Sunshine State.
“This could be the deadliest hurricane in Florida’s history,” he said. “The numbers … are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life.”
Where Biden got his information from isn’t clear; however, he had previously been briefed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Response Coordination Center in Washington on Thursday.
Biden was also sure to point out that he has been communicating with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and said that they had talked four or five times. DeSantis previously criticized Biden for snubbing him earlier in the week.
“You know, I’m happy to brief the president if he’s interested in hearing what we’re doing in Florida, you know, my view on all this is like you got people’s lives at stake, you got their property at stake, and we don’t have time for pettiness. We got to work together to make sure we’re doing the best job for them,” the governor said.
Biden granted DeSantis’ request for a disaster declaration on Thursday morning, which will allow nine counties that have been hardest hit to receive additional federal assistance.
Loss of life in a natural disaster is almost inevitable. Many people choose not to evacuate, or the path of the storm changes, and people not expecting to be hit hard end up getting slammed. But it certainly seems premature for Biden to declare Ian to be “the deadliest hurricane” in Florida’s history. It may be one of the strongest, and it may end up being the deadliest, but in the aftermath of the hurricane, was Biden jumping the gun?
According to The Epoch Times, the “Okeechobee hurricane, which struck Florida in 1928, left at least 2,500 dead, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Andrew, which hit in 1992, directly caused 26 deaths and indirectly led to 39 more,” so Biden’s bleak assessment seems premature, and he should have kept his prediction to himself. Considering his apparent snubbing of DeSantis, he should probably err on the side of hope, rather than contribute to the perception that he is hoping that DeSantis can be blamed for “botching” the state’s hurricane response.
For sure, some people may have exaggerated early numbers. On ABC’s Good Morning America, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno claimed that fatalities were “in the hundreds,” but when he appeared on CNN later on, he admitted that he only knew of about five deaths.
ABC News recently reported that “At least seven people in Florida died due to Hurricane Ian, according to preliminary reports from local officials,” and USA Today put the number at 13 at the time of this writing. Who’s right? Who knows? Will the numbers go up? Most likely? Does that excuse Biden from preemptively declaring the hurricane could be the deadliest in history? Nope.
The media has been hoping for DeSantis’ hurricane response to be a disaster from the beginning, so it hardly seems shocking that we’re getting potentially exaggerated reports of “hundreds” of deaths, despite confirmed reports from various areas only being in single digits.
As PJM’s Paula Bolyard previously reported, DeSantis issued an extensive hurricane response plan.
“Not only does his plan include assisting with practical needs like the provision of food and water, but the governor has also ordered agencies to cut red tape to ensure that people get the help they need, including waiving rules that prevent people from refilling their prescriptions early, and releasing SNAP benefits (food stamps) early to allow people to stock up on food ahead of the hurricane,” she wrote. “DeSantis has also ensured that 100% of senior care homes have generators, and the state has supplies staged and ready to be deployed the moment it’s safe for first responders to enter the affected areas.”
I want to believe that Democrats wouldn’t be so low as to hope for the worst in Florida because it could be used against DeSantis politically. But, frankly, they’ve given me no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt.