Florida leaders defend evacuation orders as death toll from Hurricane Ian rises

NORTH PORT, Fl. (KDKA) — As the death toll from Hurricane Ian continues to rise in Florida, local leaders are now defending their evacuation plans that were put in place ahead of the storm’s arrival.

Calls for help are being answered on Sanibel Island.

Rescue crews are going door to door, finding people like Betty Reynolds, who has lived in the area for 47 years and has seen her share of hurricanes.

“But I didn’t stay for Charley or Irma, and I had no damage and I just couldn’t believe there could be a storm surge,” Reynolds said.

Just north of Sanibel Island, the U.S. Coast Guard is leading a mass rescue on Pine Island, Florida’s largest barrier island — as it’s bridge to the mainland has been destroyed.

Federal officials say more than 1,000 people have been rescued from flooded areas along Florida’s southwestern coast.

5,400 National Guard members are supporting relief effort, including clearing roads in Fort Myers Beach.

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson defended the timing of mandatory evacuation orders given by Lee County officials, one day later than other counties in the area.

“Warnings for hurricane season start in June. And so there’s a degree of personal responsibility here. // The thing is that a certain percentage of people will not heed the warnings regardless,” Anderson said.

Power remains out for thousands, but Florida Power & Light announced that 44,000 utility workers from 33 states have restored electricity to 75% of customers.

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