Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Joe Henderson: Hurricanes are tough, Floridians are tougher

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Floridians generally are a cocky bunch when it comes to hurricanes. A lot of people take the batteries-and-beer approach to these things: make sure you have plenty of both.

Fill up the propane tank on the grill, fill the cooler with ice, and ride it out.

Not this time.
In 45 years of living in this slice of paradise, I have never seen residents across the state prepare for a hurricane like people are doing for Irma.

Here in Tampa, water and canned goods started disappearing from the shelves on Monday, about a week before Irma’s possible arrival. People saw the devastation last week in Houston and they’re taking no chances.

The hurricane seems certain to give a direct hit to a good portion of Florida; we just don’t know where yet. No matter where that is, though, people nearly everywhere in the state will be affected. Irma is roughly the size of Ohio and could stretch from the Gulf to the Atlantic.

So, we get ready the best we can and hope for the best.

Gov. Rick Scott showed last year during the buildup to Hurricane Matthew that he understands the vital role leadership plays in times like this, and he is doing it again. Give the man credit.

Along with the emergency management personnel, the governor’s performance can reassure residents that all systems are in place to prepare before the storm hits and react after it leaves. That’s all we ask.

The aftermath of Irma could leave Floridians struggling for months to have the basics like food and shelter. Times like that, though, tend to bring out the best in people.

Already, churches across the state are mobilizing to help members of their congregations and community. Disaster agencies like the Red Cross and many, many others have teams in place to quickly respond to needs.

Social media is playing a huge role in giving residents options and support. I’ve had offers from friends as far away as Ohio to go there if it gets too bad here.

There is one buddy there who disagrees with me on everything politically, often vocally. That didn’t stop him from offering the use of his large motorhome as a place to stay if my family and I need it.

We really do tend to come together when it matters most. We aren’t so divided that we can’t lend a hand and a hug to someone who needs both.

Watching the approach of this storm has been draining for everyone, wondering where and when it will strike. Whatever happens though, we’ll get through it. This hurricane might be a monster, but it takes more than that to beat Floridians.

That’s not being cocky. It’s just the truth.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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