Lee County, Florida, Commissioner Kevin Ruane said reporting about county officials possibly delaying a mandatory evacuation order prior to Hurricane Ian’s landfall was “inaccurate.”
When pressed by CNN’s Boris Sanchez Sunday, Ruane said the county did what it was supposed to do.
“It’s inaccurate. We’ve done everything we can from using state resources, federal resources to make the necessary arrangements that we have,” Ruane said. “I think the most important thing that most people need to understand is we opened up 15 shelters. During Irma there were 60,000 people in our shelters, there’s 4,000 people in the shelters right now.”
“So, I’m not necessary of the belief that if we opened up shelters the day before, that number would have grown much, because each shelter can hold an excess of 3,000 people. We have 250 people at each shelter,” he added.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) also said Saturday that Lee County officials acted appropriately when they issued their first mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ian on Tuesday afternoon.
Ruane stressed that he and other officials urged people to get out sooner rather than later, calling Floridians, “no strangers” to storms.
“Unfortunately, people did get complacent,” Ruane said when talking about why people may not have evacuated sooner. “As far as I’m concerned the shelters were open, they had the ability, they had all day Tuesday, they had a good part of Wednesday as the storm was coming down — they had the ability to do so.”
Ruane said the prediction models “changed dramatically” from Monday night at 11 p.m. ET to Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. ET.
“As soon as we saw the model shift northeast, we did exactly what we could to encourage people to do so. I’m just disappointed that so many people didn’t go to shelters, because they’re open.”
Recovery and rebuilding are the biggest challenges the county faces at this time, according to Ruane.
“Obviously, we now are in the recovery stage and the rebuilding stage. So that’s a different stage. We protected and rescued so many people and I think that’s important to recognize just the efforts.”
“The rebuilding stage is going to take a long time. We recognize that.”