Posted on October 9, 2023
From Fort Myers to Central Florida to Daytona Beach, Hurricane Ian cut a wide swath of destruction unlike anything most Floridians had ever experienced. One year later, the state and dozens of communities continue recovery operations with the support of federal partners, the private sector and voluntary organizations.
To date, federal support totals $8.69 billion, including:
• FEMA provided $1.13 billion in grants to more than 386,000 households in 26 counties.
• The U.S. Small Business Administration approved $1.94 billion in disaster loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.
• The National Flood Insurance Program paid $4.38 billion for more than 47,300 claims filed.
• FEMA obligated more than $1.26 billion to reimburse state and local applicants for emergency response, debris removal and repair or replacement of public facilities.
On the morning of Sept. 28, 2022, Ian intensified into a Category 4 hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when Ian came ashore near Cayo Costa in Florida’s Lee County with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, it tied the record for the fifth-strongest hurricane to strike the United States. Ian was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Michael in 2018 and the first Category 4 hurricane to impact Southwest Florida since Charley in 2004. Damage from Hurricane Ian is estimated at $115 billion, including insured and uninsured losses, making it the third costliest cyclone to strike the United States, after Katrina and Harvey, according to NOAA.
A storm surge 12 to 18 feet above ground level was reported along the southwestern Florida coast. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. issued a federal major disaster declaration immediately, authorizing FEMA to coordinate the federal response. More than 5,000 federal employees participated in response and recovery operations.
“We are working closely with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to help Floridians and their communities get back on their feet,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Brett Howard. “It’s a long process. Our initial focus was supporting the state with emergency response. Removing debris was a massive undertaking. FEMA helped by coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove debris in the first days after the hurricane and continues to support communities through reimbursements for debris removal. We provided households with rental assistance, funds for basic repairs and other disaster-caused expenses, as well as hotel stays for those who couldn’t find a place to rent. We are providing travel trailers and mobile homes for longer term temporary housing, and we are working with communities to provide funds for repair or replacement of public facilities. This operation will be for the long term.”
FEMA provided rental assistance and funds for basic home repair for 386,000 Florida households. More than 4,500 families were provided temporary hotel stays while looking for longer-term housing, and most have found other lodging. More than 1,360 households were given the keys to FEMA temporary housing, including travel trailers, manufactured housing units or apartment homes leased by FEMA for hurricane survivors.
Debris removal in the hardest-hit areas was expedited when FEMA allowed application process waivers by some local jurisdictions, saving as much as six months in the debris removal process.
To speed up damage assessments and applicants’ home inspections, FEMA used geospatial information systems and other technology in response and recovery operations.
FEMA operated 57 Disaster Recovery Centers in affected areas with 138,000 visits from survivors, and FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance teams visited 354,600 homes. The U.S. Small Business Administration operated six Business Recovery Centers and two Loan Closing Centers.
Voluntary organizations have been active since the storm made landfall. More than 670 organizations helped survivors with cleanup, financial and housing aid, mental health and other types of support. Additional resources may be available through the Unite Florida online recovery portal.
From the beginning, FEMA brought resources from multiple federal agencies to support state and local recovery needs. Agencies include U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Teams of experts from federal agencies collaborate with local and state leaders to provide resources to help affected communities recover and rebuild in ways that increase the community’s ability to withstand future disasters.
“We’ll be here until the job is done,” said Howard.