With Hurricane Florence barrelling toward the Carolinas, Floridians are not the ones having to prepare for a major storm for once.
But with a storm developing in the Gulf, Isaac's path uncertain and over a month left of hurricane season, you never know when that could change and the Sunshine State will be in the cone of uncertainty. It was this time last year, Hurricane Irma caused millions of residents of southern parts of the state to head north in the largest evacuation in U.S. history.
A Florida House of Representatives committee on hurricane response and preparedness issued 78 recommendations following Irma but only 27 were acted upon, the Associated Press reported. In response to the deaths of 14 elderly residents of a nursing home in Hollywood after a power outage caused sweltering conditions, new requirements were made for such facilities to have a generator capable of keeping temperatures cool for 96 hours.
But more than three-quarters of Florida’s 684 licensed nursing homes haven’t fully complied with the state requirement and received extensions by showing they have temporary measures in place to accomplish the same goal, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.
Another issue needing attention is problems with Interstate 75 as an evacuation route. Flooding following Irma prompted warnings that the Santa Fe River could spill over the I-75 bridge, while U.S. Highway 441 did close due to flooding.
The Florida Department of Transportation established a convoluted detour for I-75 in case of flooding, which would cause chaos on the region’s roads. With increased rainfall this year raising the risk of road closures happening, which might occur more regularly due to climate change, FDOT should study whether long-term improvements to 411 and the bridge are needed.
Our state and local governments also need to do more to prevent development near wetlands and in other areas prone to flooding. State lawmakers must fully dedicate money meant for land conservation to that purpose. GOP officials must also face the reality of climate change and help coastal communities prepare for the increased damage caused by storm surge and flooding due to rising sea levels.
Residents need to do their part in being prepared with supplies well before a storm. Hurricane kits should be ready before the storm approaches, with at least a three day supply of food and water (and a manual can opener), flashlights, a first aid kit, basic tools, supplies necessary to shelter in place and other needs. People should also have a plan for shelter and communication. In addition, we strongly recommend people sign up for Alert Bay, an emergency notification run by the county, for local updates.
Bay County has been lucky with storms causing minimal damage, but can’t expect that luck to last forever.
A version of this editorial first appeared in the Gainesville Sun, a News Herald sister paper with GateHouse Media.