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New data map shows all but one Florida county suffered a weather disaster over the past five years

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Environmental researchers at Eckerd College released data showing nearly every single Floridian lives in a county where weather-related disasters have been declared over the past five years. The Hitting Close to Home online map shows all but one of Florida’s 67 counties had a severe weather event declared a disaster by either the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Only Indian River County on Florida’s East coast averted disaster.

“From massive floods to severe rain storms and hurricanes, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home,” Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida said during a press conference Wednesday. “And without action to stop climate change, scientists say these extremes—and their impact on Floridians—will only get worse.”

The data is compiled from 2010 through 2015. Scientists predict increased frequency, severity and harsh weather impacts if global warming continues to go unchecked.

Locally, the Tampa Bay area experienced nearly unprecedented rain levels last August. The event caused the city of St. Pete to dump millions of gallons of sewage into various areas around the city including the Eckerd College campus.

“The sewage water was high in potentially dangerous bacteria like E.coli, causing the surrounding waters to be shut down for recreational activity. Unfortunately, I was one of the students who didn’t receive the safety alert in time, and went swimming at the Eckerd College waterfront after the spill,” said Anika Chaffey, a student researcher who worked on the project.

The data revealed in the online map also show devastating patterns nationwide. More than 57 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the research period and 97 percent of the population lived in counties were disasters were declared at least once.

The results from the study come as the U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed the nation’s Clean Power Plan establishing the first ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The plan also incentivizes development of clean energy technology like wind and solar.

“Ultimately, we’re confident that the Clean Power Plan will survive polluter attacks in the courts,” Rubella said. “But in the mean time, states should be moving forward with clean energy solutions – for the sake our climate, our air, and our health – not obstructing climate progress as Gov. Rick Scott is.”

According to the study the global temperature has increased by nearly one degree Celsius.

In December, nearly 200 nations agreed on a global climate plan to limit warming to no more than one more degree.

“To meet our commitment in Paris and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts,” said Cypress Hansen, another one of the Eckerd student researchers, “ultimately we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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