Gov. Rick Scott personally thanked dozen of state workers and volunteers Tuesday on a lengthy tour of the state Emergency Operations Center.
Scott was joined by his wife Ann and Tim Tebow, the former Florida Gator and NFL quarterback, who earlier visited a shelter for special needs residents in Jacksonville with the governor.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to do now is, we’ve got to get people their power back,” Scott said. “Power, power, power. I know our companies are working on that.”
A FEMA official said people with storm damage need to register at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 800-621-FEMA. Online registration is better because the phone lines are busy.
Asked if Florida’s nursing homes and adult living facilities had enough generators and backup units, Scott said the operators are doing all they can to take care of patients.
Asked if storm victims can get help delaying mortgage, utility and phone payments while they try to rebuild their lives, Scott said, “FEMA’s got programs to help them.” Sixteen of Florida’s 67 counties are part of a presidential disaster declaration.
Asked if Florida has enough utility workers, including from other states, to get power restored, Scott said there are enough workers but there wasn’t enough time to preposition enough assets because Irma was simultaneously threatening both coasts.
Scott dismissed the idea of a special session of the Legislature to react to the storm, an idea proposed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. “Right now, the focus should be, let’s keep everybody alive,” Scott said. “We can look at things like that afterwards.”
In his familiar storm attire of a blue shirt, jeans and Navy cap, a smiling Scott walked from room to room shaking the hands of workers, posing for pictures and telling anecdotes. Many workers expressed appreciation and thanks for the governor’s handling of the response to Hurricane Irma.
At one point, state Medicaid director Justin Senior told Scott about efforts to rush a backup generator to a shelter in Fort Myers’ Lee County.
Scott walked through a room of traffic experts, where a live camera showed the massive bottleneck of traffic southbound on I-75 at Mile Marker 329, the split where the interstate meets Florida’s Turnpike in Wildwood.
“The only slowdown I see right now is the 75-Turnpike, where they come together, but it’s moving,” Scott said. “DOT has done a real good job keeping that moving, but we’ve got to keep fuel on that road.”
Said First Lady Ann Scott: “Our hearts go out to the families who are suffering devastation. We just are praying for all of them to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Tebow told Scott: “So many people are praying for you and love you and are there to help you and are alongside you in this difficult time. It’s not like you can make everything better at once.”
It was the first time reporters and cameras have been allowed so much access inside the nerve center where state experts help to coordinate the 67-county response to the gigantic storm.