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Gov. DeSantis surveys Flagler County damage from Ian following campaign stop in The Villages

FLAGER COUNTY, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped in Flagler County to survey beachside damage caused by Hurricane Ian following a campaign stop in The Villages.

On Sunday, DeSantis visited Flagler County along with FEMA Region 4 Administrator Gracia Szczech, and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.

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DeSantis was also joined by Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston, members of the Flagler Beach City Commission, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners as well as other city, county and state leaders.

“The residential damages were more than $10.6 million: six homes with major damage, 80 with minor damage, and another 185 that were affected,” said Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord. “More than 2,500 FEMA Individual Assistance claims have been made.”

Lord also 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 upward of $330,000.

According to a news release, 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 for building repairs, and another $1.26 million for roads, parks, utilities, and water control.

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“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.”

Flagler County Engineer Faith Alkhatib addressed the catastrophic coastal erosion and its impact on residents and infrastructure.

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“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 the 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.”

The governor took a quick tour of the pier, and then traveled to Painters Hill.

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“We were elated to hear that Gov. Ron DeSantis came to visit Flagler County,” said County Administrator Heidi Petito. “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.”

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