Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno on Sunday afternoon announced 42 storm-related deaths in his county, which encompasses Matlacha, Pine Island, Captiva, Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach — coastal municipalities that saw some of Hurricane Ian’s worst destruction, and were described by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday as “ground zero.”
So far, over half of the confirmed deaths statewide are in Lee County. During a Sunday press conference, Marceno said he wouldn’t change anything about how the county carried out its evacuation plan.
“Everyone wants to focus on a plan that might have been done differently,” Marceno said. “Well I’m going to tell you, I stand 100% with my county commissioners, my county manager. We did what we had to do at the exact same time. I wouldn’t have changed anything.”
County officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A and parts of Zone B at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the Times/Herald previously reported. Two hours later, the order expanded to all of Zone B. By 2 p.m., a little more than 24 hours before Ian made landfall on Wednesday afternoon, the county expanded the evacuation order to include some parts of Zone C.
So far, the state Medical Examiners Commission has announced the cause of 12 Lee County deaths. All but one resulted from drowning.
Marceno said he’s unsure how many more there might be.
“There is unknown. We’re going through a lot of debris,” he said. “Those numbers could go up. I don’t know. I pray and hope that they don’t. But right now it’s confirmed: 42.”
Tough stance on looting
During the Sunday press conference, Marceno also took a hard law-and-order stance, noting that he has a “zero-tolerance” policy for looting.
“If someone makes the error to walk into someone’s house, rob, steal and loot,” he said, “they are going to be carried out. Carried out. And I’m certain about it.”
State and county officials have announced about 80 deaths that are linked to Hurricane Ian as of Sunday evening.
The state Medical Examiner’s Commission has confirmed 44 storm-related deaths, but that number does not include the most recent figures from county sheriffs. For example, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed 23 deaths related directly and indirectly to the storm, while the state has not announced any deaths in Charlotte County.
The Medical Examiner’s Commission has also confirmed 30 deaths in Lee County — 12 fewer than the sheriff announced Sunday afternoon. The commission is expected to release an updated list by noon on Monday.
DeSantis vows rebuilt Pine Island bridge
At another press briefing in Arcadia on Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he has directed the Florida Department of Transportation to build a temporary bridge to Pine Island to make the area accessible by car.
”It’s not going to be a full bridge and you’re probably going to have to go over it probably 5 miles per hour or something, but it will at least let people get on and off the island with their vehicles,” he said.
DeSantis said work will begin as early as Monday.
”It’s not going to be an overnight thing, but it’s not going to take months and months,” he said.
Starting Tuesday morning, the state will also help private insurance carriers set up “insurance villages” in most of the areas impacted by Ian. The first ones will open in Lee and Charlotte counties, he said. There, people will get help filing out insurance claims, he said.”
My message is basically, we want to get these insurance claims processed as quickly as possible,”DeSantis said. “I’ll also remind people that the damage you have is different in terms of policies.”
DeSantis urged residents to make sure they have all the documentation and know whether they will be filing claims with their homeowners insurance or the National Flood Insurance program. The governor said that he think most of the claims will be related to flooding, not wind damage.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Ana Ceballos contributed to this report.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.