Late. Rubio and FEMA chief on recovery from Ian’s devastation: ‘I don’t think it compares’

Late. Marco Rubio and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell on Sunday described the devastation Ian wrought in Florida, with Rubio saying there is “no comparison” between the deadly hurricane and past storms.

“I don’t think it has a comparison, not in Florida,” Rubio, R-Fla., told “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “Fort Myers Beach doesn’t exist anymore. It’s going to have to be rebuilt. It’s going to be something else. It was a piece of old Florida that you can’t recapture.”

“There’s a lot of destruction. Significant damage at the point of impact on the west coast of Florida,” Criswell added.

Ian made landfall last week in western Florida before sweeping across the middle and upper regions of the state, leaving leveled homes and significant flooding in its wake. Search and rescue operations are underway, but the death toll in Florida stood at 72 as of Sunday morning, according to local officials.

There have also been four deaths in North Carolina, where Ian hit after passing Florida, and several deaths in Cuba, which hit before Florida.

Both Rubio and Criswell emphasized on “This Week” that federal officials have been working hand in glove with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I spent all day with Governor DeSantis on Friday and really wanted to hear what his concerns were and what resources he might need to help support this,” Criswell told Karl. “I committed to him that we would continue to bring in resources to meet the needs, not only for this response and the stabilization, but as they go into the recovery effort.”

Late.  Rubio and FEMA chief on recovery from Ian’s devastation: ‘I don’t think it compares’

Senator Marco Rubio addresses a large crowd during a campaign event held at the Melbourne Auditorium in Melbourne, Fla., on September 17, 2022.

Craig Bailey/Florida Today/USA Today Network

Asked by Karl if the forecast models were off in projecting Ian’s path or if local officials should have called for evacuation earlier, Criswell said the hurricane had been “pretty unpredictable in the days leading up to landfall” as Ian quickly became the deadliest hurricane in the state in 60 years.

“This is going to be a long road to recovery,” Criswell acknowledged. She added: “We’re taking into account everyone who was in the path of the storm and we’re going through every home to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind.”

Criswell, a former New York City emergency manager, was confirmed as FEMA administrator last year. She took over an agency that disburses billions in emergency aid across the country, but has also faced scrutiny and criticism over its work.

“FEMA has — they’ve all been great,” Rubio said Sunday. “The federal response from day one has been very positive … and we’re grateful for that.”

PHOTO: A search and rescue team returns to port near isolated Sanibel Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Oct. 1, 2022.

A search and rescue team returns to port near isolated Sanibel Island in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Oct. 1, 2022.

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Karl pressed Rubio several times on a 2013 vote he cast against Hurricane Sandy recovery funds, in which Rubio argued that Sandy relief included unrelated spending.

Karl asked if Rubio would also insist that disaster money for his state be voted on without any non-emergency additions — and if so, if he was prepared to vote against such funding if it was part of a larger package .

“What we’re asking for Florida is what we advocated for every other state in the country that has been hit by natural disasters, and that’s relief designed to be sent immediately to help the people who are affected now ,” Rubio said.

Karl asked Criswell about FEMA’s work in Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona last month. Criswell noted that 90% of the population on the island has power back since the storm. “We have not stopped our efforts and our recovery efforts,” she said.

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