Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday said he plans to visit Pensacola Thursday to assess Hurricane Sally’s “severe” impact.
Speaking to reporters from the State Emergency Operations Center, DeSantis said he is unaware of any fatalities directly caused by the storm, although two individuals were found dead in Santa Rosa County from non-storm related causes.
Moving forward, the state will now focus on recovery as Tropical Storm Sally advances inland beyond the Florida Panhandle.
The Florida National Guard has activated roughly 500 Soldiers and Airmen. The Governor said their mission, among others, will include search and rescue, food and water distribution, shelter support, and route clearance.
The FLNG will also begin aerial search and rescue missions Thursday morning. DeSantis added neighboring states such as Tennessee and Oklahoma have offered to help with recovery.
“Protecting life is the number one priority,” DeSantis said. “I know that there’s going to be property damage and that’s something that’s going to be difficult for people. We’re obviously going to be there to help, but life and safety comes first.”
DeSantis cited power outages as his second priority. He added the state is coordinating with utility companies and linemen crews, who may be on the ground as soon as tomorrow. Meanwhile, he said, DEM is deploying 175 generators and 100 pumps into impacted areas to assist with outages and flooding.
As of 3 p.m., Gulf Power, a Northwest Florida energy provider, reported more than 200,000 panhandle customers are without power.
“We understand that this is something that is very, very significant,” DeSantis said.
Local authorities have enacted a curfew for Escambia County including Pensacola. The curfew will be in place from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the next 72 hours. Only essential workers are exempt.
Hurricane Sally made landfall on the Gulf Coast early Wednesday as a Category 2 storm. As of the latest update, the now tropical storm has created “catastrophic and life-threatening” flooding.
Forecasters last tracked Sally roughly 55 miles north-northeast of Pensacola with sustained winds that have decreased to 60 mph, yet extend 125 miles from the storm’s center.
DeSantis encouraged panhandle residents to “buckle up” over the coming days.
“The most import thing we want people to do is stay vigilant,” he said. “Listen to your local officials and be cognizant of the risks that the water poses right now.”
He added that area shelters have been prepared with COVID-19 considerations including screening at shelters, non-congregate sheltering, and PPE kits.