The year 2017 was a historic year for hurricanes.
It was not only one of the most active seasons on record, but early damage estimates place it as the most expensive in United States history. According to some experts like former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate, it could be the beginning of the norm rather than an outlier:
“You had three hurricanes all set records. This is our new normal.”
After hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma, everyone from politicians and emergency management officials on down to you reading this right now are wondering: What will we do to prepare for such a future? Florida has been here before with Hurricane Andrew. In 1992, the Category 5 storm set South Florida in in its sights and forever changed the way the state and the country handle hurricanes. Now, 25 years later, Irma was another milestone event that could forever change the state.
In the stories below, we take a look at Irma’s ongoing impact on Floridians and some measures that will forever change the state.
The nursing homes
Hurricane Irma made its first landfall in Florida on Sept. 10, killing 82 people in Florida — 14 of which were at a nursing home in Hollywood. These 14 victims did not die directly from the storm but from the effects of overheating during a power outage. The incident caused Governor Rick Scott to make one of the first immediate changes post-storm, enacting a rule requiring nursing home management to have an emergency plan and a generator to support their facility during similar outages. WUFT’s Skyler Lebron has more on how this rule has created new problems for nursing home facilities across the state.
The blueberries, then and now
The nursing home industry is not the only one experiencing an immediate change; the state’s $120 billion agriculture industry was significantly impacted by the storm. For months now, state officials and Florida’s congressional delegation have pushed for billions in disaster aid to help farmers. WUFT’s Luke Sullivan and Dolores Hinckley visited with one such farmer back in September. Two hundred volunteers from around the state descended on his Pasco County blueberry farm the weekend after the storm in an attempt to save his livelihood.
Now three months later, Dolores Hinckley checked back in on Frogmore Fresh.
When the lights go out and stay out
While these Gainesville residents plot out their next move, one Gainesville family is stuck in limbo. Not about a flooded home but a home without electricity. Thousands of people in the Gainesville area were without power after the storm and most got it back within a few days, but WUFT’s Luke Sullivan discovered one family was still in the dark more than three months after the storm.
(Music: “Prism” by Render)
After that story aired last Friday, GRU dispatched a crew to ensure the power would be back on by Christmas, and more than $1,500 donations came into a GoFundMe the Rickses started following publication of the family’s plight.
Whether from the federal government or ratepayers, money for restoration has to come somewhere and that takes us to our final story. Rick Scott is asking for than $1.3 billion dollars for disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation in his final budget as Florida’s governor. In addition to that, more than 130 bills related to the hurricane were filed in the state legislature prior to the 2018 session. WUFT’s Grace King has this look at what some of those bills are and what Floridians would like to see changed.