In his first year as Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis traveled to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and prayed the Sunshine State would be spared from hurricanes.
At a press conference in DeFuniak Springs on Thursday, the weather was again on DeSantis’ mind after Tropical Storm Mindy made landfall the night before. And once again, DeSantis is praying Florida will be spared.
“(W)e’ll pray that we get spared. We don’t want to see another Michael-type situation,” DeSantis told a friendly crowd.
“But we’re right in the heart of this thing, so we watch. I watch from Africa, over every single morning. I look on, is there something doing? They had the one hurricane that was pretty strong, but it didn’t even come close to the U.S.,” DeSantis said, presumably referring to Hurricane Larry in the Atlantic Ocean.
In contrast to predecessor Rick Scott, who branded heavily around storm prep and response during his eight years in the Governor’s Mansion, DeSantis has taken a more laconic approach to storm messaging. That was on display Thursday, as DeSantis calmly dismissed the threat posed by Tropical Storm Mindy.
“We had a tropical storm kind of rush through. It was a system and then it kind of went. But we were ready for it,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis’ public schedule for Wednesday ended with a 10:30 a.m. press conference on an unrelated topic. If he called local administrators after that to see if they had what they needed as the storm approached, the schedule did not reflect it. But it appears events validated his low-key approach.
DeSantis turned his attention briefly to Hurricane Ida, offering an upbeat analysis of how Louisiana fared, while suggesting casualties in the Northeast from flooding and tornadoes were because people didn’t think the storm was “going to be as big a deal.”
“That one in Louisiana was a pretty big one,” DeSantis reflected. “But because this is something that they learned from Katrina, their infrastructure was better. That really held up. They learned some stuff on the response. And most of the worst damage was not in Louisiana in terms of mortality, it was all the way up in the Northeast, because it wasn’t something that was necessarily — people didn’t think it was going to be as big a deal.”
DeSantis’ comments offer a creative interpretation of the facts of the storm.
Hurricane Ida took 26 lives in Louisiana, where hundreds of thousands of people languish for a ninth straight day without power. The deaths in the Northeast largely were driven by flash flooding, as the storm’s tropical rains overwhelmed infrastructure that was not built for tropical impacts. It is uncertain whether that would have been helped if people had thought the storm was a bigger deal.
Thus far, 82 casualties have been confirmed from the storm nationwide.