Florida officials endured a disastrous 2022 — and delivered record response
Another wave of SNAP benefits is on the way to Hurricane Ian survivors.

Two hurricanes demanded vigilance and spotlighted efforts at resilience.

Emergency responders in Florida are happy to close out a year marked by disaster — and say they are proud of the state’s response.

With Hurricane Ian bringing record damage to the state weeks before another storm hit, officials say 2022 brought tremendous challenges. Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) Director Kevin Guthrie highlighted the state’s response.

“Thanks to the Governor’s leadership, the Division executed our fastest emergency responses, cut through red tape, and implemented innovative solutions to ease the recovery process for residents and businesses rebuilding from disasters,” Guthrie said.

“I want to thank my staff and the members of the State Emergency Response Team for their tireless efforts this year to serve the people of Florida in their times of need.”


Most notably, this year’s hurricane season delivered a destructive storm that may be the most expensive hurricane in Florida’s history. Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa in Lee County, hung over Charlotte County for an extended period, and cut across the state flooding inland communities in the Orlando area. It then went to sea in the Atlantic Ocean, but winds and storm surges continued to savage the state’s east coast.

The state worked closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which approved requests by the Governor to expedite recovery efforts. The Florida National Guard airlifted supplies to barrier islands like Sanibel and Pine Island that were cut off from the mainland after bridges were destroyed.

The Logistics Section of FDEM and the Air Operations division of the state guard clocked 457 flight hours on such operations, which included rescuing a number of people (and 42 pets). In total, law enforcement, fire rescue and search and rescue teams evacuated or rescued more than 2,000 people from areas impacted by the storm.

Power also proved an enormous challenge in Ian’s wake, but state officials feel proud of the relatively quick restoration of service. Within two days of Ian making landfall, over 43,000 utility restoration personnel from more than 30 states responded, and over 2 million utility accounts had power restored within four days.

The Human Services Branch distributed 4 million hot meals and 16 million military meals ready to eat. The state also distributed 500,000 food boxes and 2 million hygiene kits and staffed disaster recovery centers around the state, many of which remain in operation.

A memo from the division says 20 distribution points were established within 48 hours to send resources to individuals, and another 8 came online within 72 hours. In total, some 51 million bottles of water, 14 million meals and 300,000 bags of ice were distributed.

With the state still bouncing back from Ian, Hurricane Nicole also made landfall on the east coast in November, two days after a statewide election. While it was a Category 1 storm — as compared to the Category 4 Ian — the storm hit Indian River County and moved all the way to North Florida before crossing into Georgia.

“This event brought widespread coastal erosion on the East Coast, resulting in damage or degradation to many structures near the water and causing an estimated $213,652,220 in damages,” reads a memo from FDEM.

“The response to the impacts of Nicole was made more complex by the ongoing Ian recovery efforts, as responders were still operating in the field and many structures remained vulnerable. Over 8,500 hot meals were served during this event and shelters supported survivors displaced from their homes. Response and recovery efforts continue in the affected areas.”

But those weren’t the only storm events the FDEM had to contend with this year. Tornadoes struck Southwest Florida in January and North Central Florida in March, both prompting DeSantis to declare states of emergency. The latter twisters caused $3.7 million in estimated damage.


All these storms and other disasters including wildfires required shelters to open at various points throughout the year. FDEM this year surveyed 147 shelters, found 57 in need of retrofits, and spotlighted Hurricane Loss Mitigation Program grants to aid with that. The Legislature also approved money through the Division for shelter hardening that occurred this year.

The state also made some money while preventing future disasters. After conducting 36 on-site inspections of chemical facilities this year, the state collected more than $2.3 million in fees, which will go toward grants for hazardous material training and mitigation efforts. It is also pursuing 11 projects with FEMA worth a collective $75 million.

FDEM issued grants to agencies including $8.7 million for Urban Search and Rescue, $629,600 for planning council programs, and $221,264 for hazard analysis.

The state also distributed $25 million through the division for long-term hazard mitigation projects and continues to work with federal agencies to direct funding tied to past disasters including Hurricanes Sally, Dorian, Michael, Irma, Mathew and Hermine. It also will handle disaster funding tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state approved 33 new county disaster mitigation strategy plans and presented information at 13 meetings on local strategies.

Some $13 million in disaster preparedness grants went out from the division. That includes $5.8 million in Emergency Management Performance Grants to keep counties and state governments prepared for coming disasters. Another $6.1 went to county response and training programs, and $1.5 million went to nonprofits to harden physical facilities for storms and for other emergency preparedness efforts.

Much of the training was provided by FDEM itself, which conducted 544 courses over the course of the year, training approximately 5,679 emergency managers, first responders and nongovernmental personnel.

The state also conducted a three-day Statewide Hurricane Exercise/Under Siege III Cybersecurity Exercise in April.

And in addition to recovery in Florida, FDEM continues to provide assistance to other states in need through mutual aid partnerships.

DeSantis in July dispatched two All-Hazards Incident Management Teams to Kentucky in response to flash flooding there. A month prior, FDEM deployed a dozen Recovery and Response Bureau officials to Montana to coordinate damage assessments from major flooding in the Big Sky State.

Four years of disasters

The various challenges and costly responses to the storm bring the total critical disaster funding issued in the last four years to $7.8 billion. That means DeSantis’ first term in office saw FDEM pay out more than any gubernatorial term in state history. With the response this year earning praise, DeSantis coasted to win a second term in November by a landslide margin.

The four years of funding included $695 million in FEMA Public Assistance funding and $25 million in long-term damage mitigation and efforts to boost disaster resilience.

There was also $10 million in citrus recovery for growers still dealing with challenges from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and $30 million for timber losses dating back to Hurricane Michael in 2018. The latter storm continues to see more spending through the Supplemental LIDAR Project, which continues to compile data in an impacted area traversing roughly 8,300 square miles from Jefferson County west to Walton County.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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