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Fox 4 Investigates: The Hurricane Ian Evacuation

As leaders prepare for Hurricane Season ‘23, documents show Lee County did not follow its own plan and procedures during Ian's evacuation
Fox 4 interviews County Manager Roger Desjarlais
Memorial for Hurricane Ian victims
Posted at 4:40 PM, May 22, 2023

Just days ahead of Hurricane Season 2023 starting, our investigative unit worked to understand if lessons learned from Ian are shaping future evacuation policies.

A series of record requests Fox 4 submitted to the county shows that Lee County leaders did not follow their own plan and procedures when deciding the exact moment to issue the Hurricane Ian evacuation order.

Through the obtained records, Fox 4 Investigates reconstructed Lee County leaders' decision-making process as the deadly storm approached Southwest Florida’s coast as a Category 5 hurricane.

The seven-month-long investigation revealed that some survivors felt the delay, and muted messaging from county leaders, prevented them from making the most informed evacuation decision until it was too late.

"If you feel unsafe it's okay to leave now."

Weather experts also confirmed evacuation orders could have happened sooner.

While Lee County leaders acknowledge they are working to create an ‘After-Ian’ report and make their messaging better ahead of the next storm, they still maintain their stand on the Ian evacuation plan working.

Understanding their complex emergency management plan serves only as a starting point with this document and a defense for their decision-making process.

We want to hear from you. Do you think Lee County's evacuation for Hurricane Ian was called on time? Let us know on Facebook.

Follow along with Fox 4 News as the investigation into the evacuation unfolds.

Have a TIP? Send it to the FOX 4 Investigation team

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