Florida Governor Rick Scott has been overseeing the state’s preparations and response to Hurricane Irma. Scott has urged residents to pay attention to evacuation orders and declared a State of Emergency for Florida back on September 4.
The 64-year-old Scott was born in Bloomington, Indiana and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. A Republican, he briefly served in the U.S. Navy before joining a Dallas law firm. He then co-founded Columbia Hospital Corporation in 1987, which merged with Hospital Corporation of America in 1989. Scott was the Columbia/HCA CEO until 1997, when he resigned because of a controversy with its Medicare billings practices.
Scott was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2014, when he beat former Governor Charlie Christ. He has been married to Ann Scott since 1972. They have two daughters, Allison and Jordan, and five grandchildren.
Here’s what you need to know about Scott and his response to Hurricane Irma.
1. Scott Declared a State of Emergency Back on September 4 & Has Activated 7,000 Florida National Guard Members
To give local officials ample time to prepare for Hurricane Irma long before it makes landfall, Scott declared a State of Emergency on September 4.
“In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared. This state of emergency allows our emergency management officials to act swiftly in the best interest of Floridians without the burden of bureaucracy or red tape,” Scott said.
On Thursday, Scott activated another 3,000 members of the Florida National Guard. By Friday, all 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard were deployed to help with preparation and evacuation.
“These men and women are putting themselves in harm’s way to save the lives of their fellow Floridians while many of their own families are evacuating. I am proud of their commitment to keeping our families safe,” Scott said.
President Donald Trump also granted Scott’s request for a federal emergency declaration before the storm makes landfall.
Scott also suspended tolls on Florida highways to make evacuations run smoother.
2. Scott Warned Residents That the Storm Surge Could ‘Kill You’
In a press conference early Thursday, Scott said he is concerned about the storm surge caused by Irma, reports the Naples Daily News.
“My biggest concern is the amount of storm surge this storm will bring,” Scott said at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “This can kill you.”
The National Hurricane Center in Miami has put a Storm Surge Watch in effect for areas south of Jupiter and the Florida Keys. In its latest public advisory, the NWC warned that Jupiter Inlet to Bonita Beach and the Florida Keys could see a storm surge of five to 10 feet above normal tide levels.
“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water is expected to reach the following HEIGHTS ABOVE GROUND if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide,” the NWC said.
“Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the center added.
Scott said that the biggest difference between 1992’s devastating Hurricane Andrew and Irma is that Andrew didn’t have storm surge.
3. Scott Said Residents Can’t Ignore Evacuation Orders & Warned That It’s ‘Bigger’ Than Andrew
In his press conferences since the storm moved closer to Florida, Scott has told residents not to ignore evacuation orders.
“Do not ignore evacuation orders. Remember: We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life,” Scott said on Wednesday, reports NBC News. “This is not a storm you can sit and wait through.”
Also on Wednesday, Scott said Irma could be much worse that Hurricane Andrew, which killed 65 people and caused $47.8 billion in damage 25 years ago. Weather.com notes that most of the deaths were in Miami-Dade. Another 43 indirect deaths were linked to the storm. Andrew made landfall in Miami-Dade County, crossed over the state, then didn’t make landfall again until it reached Louisiana.
“Hurricane Andrew is one of the worst storms in the history of Florida,” Scott said Wednesday. “This is much worse and more devastating on its current path.”
Scott also said on Thursday that making sure fuel is available for residents planning to evacuate is a “top priority.”
“I have been very clear to the retailers,” the governor said. “We have to get the fuel as fast as we can out so people can evacuate.”
4. Scott Served in the Navy, Which Is Why He Wears a Navy Baseball Cap During Press Conferences
Scott, who has an B.A. from the University of Missouri and a Law Degree from Southern Methodist University, served in the U.S. Navy from 1971 to 1974. That explains why he wears a Navy had during his press conferences.
According to Scott’s bio, he enlisted in the Navy and served on the USS Glover as a radar man. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill for his college education.
Scott’s brief service in the Navy was at the center of a controversial Veterans’ Hall of Fame class in 2011. When the Department of Veterans’ Affairs announced the first class of Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame inductees, it was dominated by governors and six former members of the Confederate Army. Scott, who didn’t see action in Vietnam, was also on the list.
The Herald Tribune reported in July 2011 that Scott’s name was pulled from the list as he requested.
5. Scott Has Been a Longtime Supporter of President Donald Trump, Meeting With Him for Lunch in August
Scott has been a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump. After Florida Senator Marco Rubio dropped out of the 2016 race, Scott endorsed Trump for the presidency. Since then, Scott and Trump have remained close. Scott chaired a pro-Trump Super PAC and spoke at the Republican National Convention. Scott was even invited to lunch with Trump during the president’s vacation in New Jersey last month.
In January, Politico reported that Trump, who has known Scott for over two decades, urged him to run against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in 2018. “We need you in the Senate. We need business guys like you,” Trump told Scott on the phone, a source told Politico.
After the violence in Charlottesville, Virgina last month and Trump’s response, Scott said that he didn’t serve in the Navy to “defend neo-Nazis,” adding that his father fought in World War II.
“There is no place in our country for racism, bigotry, the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists,” Scott said, notes the Palm Beach Post. “There is no moral equivalence between the two sides.”
However, just days later, Scott was with Trump in New Jersey for lunch.