While federal and state officials continue to respond to the damage from Hurricane Ian, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell defended officials in Lee County, Florida, after a New York Times report made it seem that they had failed to properly respond to the storm which ravaged their area.
In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Criswell noted that it was difficult to guess exactly where Ian was going to strike.
“This storm, it was really dynamic, and it was very unpredictable for a long period of time,” Criswell said. “Just 72 hours before the storm made landfall, Lee County wasn’t even in the hurricane path. It wasn’t even in the predicted zone of where it was going to make impact, and it continued to move south day by day.”
“As soon as the storm predictions were that it was going to impact Lee County, I know that local officials immediately put the right measures in place to make sure that they were warning citizens to get them out of harm’s way,” she continued.
In light of the unpredictability of weather events, Criswell advised that one of the best things Americans can do to protect their property is flood insurance – and that people should get it regardless of what her own agency says about where they live.
FEMA has flood maps that classify different areas according to flood risk, with property owners in the most high-risk areas being required to purchase flood insurance. Criswell observed, however, that weather can be unpredictable and that people should get insured event if they do not have to do so.
“Where it rains, it can flood,” Criswell told host Shannon Bream. She said that FEMA maps are focused on “inundation at the coastal levels and river rain areas,” but that now rain is “coming down at rates far higher than we’ve seen in the past.”
“People need to make sure that they’re understanding what their risk is,” Criswell added. “While we require flood insurance for certain areas, it is available for everybody to buy. And so insurance is one of those best tools that you can have. And again, if you’re in an area where it rains, it can floor and flood insurance is your best bet to make sure you can protect your belongings.”
The FEMA head also cautioned that significant dangers exist after a hurricane like Ian has already come and gone.
“We see so many more injuries, and sometimes more fatalities after the storm,” Criswell said, explaining the dangers of standing water, which can have hidden debris and power lines below the surface. On top of that, she said that she has seen increases in dehydration and heart attacks after hurricanes.
“We want to make sure that people are being extra cautious,” she said.