‘All hands have been on deck’: Gov. DeSantis tours storm-battered Flagler County

FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday visited Flagler Beach, surveying the damage left in wake of 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 struck me the most is the resilience of the people and just all hands have been on deck.”

DeSantis greeted well-wishers and met with local officials, who pointed out 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 take everything out,” said William Whitson, Flagler Beach city manager.

“We have almost $5 million from FDT to come and put a nourishment project, but with what’s going on with the economy, it’s not going to be enough,” said Faith Alkhatib, Flagler County engineer.

DeSantis said he’ll sign off on those fixes if local Rep. Paul Renner, R-District 24, brings them to the budget.

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

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

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

The destructiveness of recent hurricanes is in on display at Flagler Beach. The fishing pier is a symbol of the community, and it’s now closed after losing about 160 feet from Ian, and it had already been shortened by about that same amount from Hurricane Matthew.

According to NASA, global climate models predict hurricanes will likely cause more intense rainfall and flooding due to a warming climate and rising sea levels.

“When I became governor, we launched an effort to create a Resilient Florida Program, so that’s now in effect,” DeSantis said. “We’ve done over $1.1 billion the last two years.”

The program helps with raising sea walls, elevating roads and improving drainage.

Some Florida residents are concerned about skyrocketing property insurance costs.

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

So far this year, half a dozen property insurance companies have been declared insolvent amid several factors, including high litigation costs.

A spokesperson noted that DeSantis said earlier this week he thinks 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 to the state’s property insurance market to bring relief to consumers.

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