Rep. Carlos Gimenez said Thursday he hopes that estimates of hundreds of deaths in Florida's Lee County from Hurricane Ian may be wrong, telling Newsmax that based on his own experience, that many of those feared dead may have evacuated in time.
"I remember when I was the fire chief of the city of Miami and we flew over Homestead after Hurricane Andrew, we expected a lot of people to have perished," the Florida Republican, who represented areas of Miami-Dade County and the Keys, said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "Fortunately, we didn't have as many as we feared. Hopefully, this sheriff is mistaken, and the people left."
Thursday morning, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the deaths in his county are "so far confirmed in the hundreds, meaning that we are responding to events, drownings," but added that "we are just starting to scratch the surface on this assessment."
Gimenez noted though, that the southwest side of the state, especially Lee County, where Fort Myers is located, experienced a great deal of devastation from the combination of the storm surge and the high winds from the powerful hurricane, which landed as a strong Category 4 storm.
"I hope that all of the people who were told to evacuate evacuated and got out of harm's way," Gimenez said.
Meanwhile, Gimenez said that damages were light in Miami-Dade County but worse by Key West.
"We weren't on the dirty side of the storm, and so rainfall has been far less than what we expected," said Gimenez about Miami-Dade. "The winds are gusty but it's not something totally out of the ordinary. There's a lot of debris around, but that's not something we can't handle."
He also noted that there is no state or its residents who are better prepared for hurricanes than Florida, but at the same time, there are many people who have moved there in recent years who don't know about such weather.
"That's the price you pay for living in paradise, and so, unfortunately, we get very good at it because we've had a lot of practice and," said Gimenez, pointing out that Gov. Ron DeSantis and his predecessors have all provided "great leadership" over the years by prepositioning assets that allow a faster recovery effort.
"We know how to do it," he said. "Now it's up to the people to heed the warnings. Get out of the way. Be self-sustaining for at least three days, and have food and water, and medicines.
"It could take up to three days for help to get to them. We should all know that. Floridians who have been here for a while do know that, but we also have a lot of people that have moved in recently that may not."
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