Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday visited Flagler County for an update on the impacts caused by Hurricane Ian and to get a firsthand look at the damages to the beachside. He was joined by FEMA Region 4 Administrator Gracia Szczech, and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
Members of the Flagler Beach City Commission, Mayor Suzy Johnston and City Manager William Whitson, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners and County Administrator Heidi Petito, soon-to-be Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Renner, and key county staff members Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord and County Engineer Faith Alkhatib attended the briefing and pier tour.
Lord provided the overall damage assessment of Flagler County.
“The residential damages were more than $10.6 million: six homes with major damage, 80 with minor damage, and another 185 that were affected,” Lord said. “More than 2,500 FEMA Individual Assistance claims have been made.”
He described business damages as “under-reported” with loss of power and production, something that affected many mom-and-pop businesses on Flagler Beach. These reported damages are currently upwards of $330,000.
Excluding cost estimates for damages to the beach and dunes, which will be considerable, Lord said governmental damages are estimated to exceed $5.6 million. This includes $1.3 million for debris removal, $1.3 million for emergency protections, $1.6 million to buildings, and another $1.26 million for roads, parks, utilities, and water control.
“We had 15 inches of rain in some places, like the Bunnell Wastewater Treatment Center, and that overwhelmed sewage systems,” Lord said. “We had Intracoastal (Waterways) and coastal flooding. We had catastrophic coastal erosion.”
Alkhatib also spoke of the catastrophic coastal erosion and its impact on residents and infrastructure.
“After Matthew we did a $20 million dunes project and it’s all washed out,” Alkhatib said. “That leaves our residents vulnerable. We are worried about the environment, and, of course, we have been working with FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) to protect State Road A1A. We need help, support, and funding. Even if you could reduce the 50% local match or waive it, it would help.”
Whitson spoke of the economic impact to the city with the loss of another 150 feet of the iconic pier.
“During the Fiscal Year 2021-2022, city revenue for the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier totaled $490,000,” he said, and noted that 30 of 52 dune walkovers within the city limits remain closed.
The governor took a quick tour of the pier, and then traveled to Painters Hill where, for a second week, resident Mark Langello allowed an entourage to view the damage sustained to his property.
“We were elated to hear that Gov. Ron DeSantis came to visit Flagler County,” Petito said. “It’s great that he visited Painters Hill. “We could use assistance from the state to fast-track seawall permitting in this area, which suffered a lot of damage. This visit gives him a better understanding of what our residents are dealing with in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and continued vulnerability for upcoming nor’easters.”