Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
— THE LATEST —
Hurricane Irma is getting weaker as it moves over the western Florida peninsula early Monday.
Irma hit Florida on Sunday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, hammering much of the state with roof-ripping winds, gushing floodwaters and widespread power outages.
By Monday morning, Irma had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds near 85 mph (135 kph). Additional weakening is forecast and Irma is expected to become a tropical storm over northern Florida or southern Georgia later in the day.
— WHY WE’RE STILL STANDING —
Before crashing into Florida, Hurricane Irma set all sorts of records for brute strength as it flattened Caribbean islands and swamped the Florida Keys. Irma’s assault – so soon after Harvey’s deluge of Houston – marked the first time the U.S. was hit by two Category 4 storms in the same year.
Irma hit the Sunshine State as a big wide beast, though not quite the monster it once was shaping up to be. Earlier, it was the most powerful recorded storm in the open Atlantic. But as the once-Category 5 storm neared the U.S. mainland, it lost some oomph after running into the northern coast of Cuba.
Winds dropped to a quite potent 115 mph (185 kph) by the time Irma made landfall on Marco Island, on the Florida peninsula, still a major and dangerous hurricane yet not near its 185 mph (297 kph) former self when it set a record Tuesday for the most powerful storm in the open Atlantic. And on top of that, Irma avoided what could have been its most destructive paths along the Florida peninsula – over Miami and the heavily developed Atlantic seaboard. Still, at about 400 miles (640 kilometers) wide, it raked much of the state with devastating storm surge, destructive winds and drenching rains before weakening.
“There’s a huge difference between a (Category) 3 and 5 when it makes landfall,” said private meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics. “Barbuda is an example of that. It was wiped.”
“This is obviously not the worst case scenario for Florida overall,” Maue said. Had the center of Irma hit Florida 20 to 30 miles (32-50 kilometers) to the east “it would have been much worse.”
“Donald Trump: U.S. a ‘little bit lucky’ Irma veered from original course” via The Associated Press – … and headed west along Florida’s coast. He says Irma may not have been quite as destructive as a result … Trump says Irma will cost “a lot of money” but he isn’t thinking about that right now. He says “right now, we’re worried about lives, not cost.”
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— THE DESTRUCTION —
“Irma slams Key West, Florida Keys: ‘everything is underwater, I mean everything’” via Trevor Hughes of USA Today – Officials worry that Irma, with sustained winds of 130 mph, has devastated the Keys … The National Weather Service reported the storm’s eye crossed the chain 20 miles from Key West, over the Big Pine, Summerland and Cudjoe Keys. “Everything is underwater, I mean everything,” said Larry Kahn, an editor for the local newspaper The Keynoter. Kahn has been riding out the storm in a shelter that has no power or supplies. As the storm passed, sheets of rain were visible down Key West’s legendary Duval Street, with what appeared to be at least several inches of water flowing in the street, videos posted to Twitter showed.
“Naples mayor says city was mostly spared” via The Naples Daily News – Naples crews saw no major structural damage and only minimal flooding in their initial post-storm tours, Barnett said. “This was definitely worse than Wilma,” Barnett said, referring to the major hurricane that hit Naples in 2005. “But the only good thing about it is that the storm surge was minimal.”
“Three cranes at South Florida construction sites have snapped in Irma’s howling winds” via David Smiley, Douglas Hanks, Joey Flechas and Nicholas Nehamas – The first to go was a crane at an apartment building in downtown Miami around 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Hours later, the winds brought down a second crane at a condo tower in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, roughly 2 miles north. A video posted on Twitter showed its boom dangling above the unfinished tower. Then, later in the afternoon, the flailing arm of a crane at an oceanfront Fort Lauderdale condo brought the number of accidents to three. Perhaps reflecting the size of its portfolio, the firm behind the Edgewater and Fort Lauderdale projects is the region’s biggest developer, the Related Group. No injuries were immediately reported at any of the three sites. After the first accident, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said the city should consider stricter codes for cranes, even if it comes at the expense of building projects that generate revenue for the city. “It’s development in the future versus tropical storms or hurricanes,” Regalado said. “We just cannot gamble on the wind.”
“Irma was so strong it pulled water from Tampa Bay” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times Meteorologists call the phenomenon a “reverse storm surge,” said Tyler Fleming, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Strong eastern and northeastern winds blowing to the southwest caused the water to drain caused the water to drain from Hillsborough Bay as Irma’s center moves closer to Tampa, Fleming said.
Worst tweet of the weekend:
HURRICANE UPDATE FROM MIAMI: LIGHT RAIN; RESIDENTS AT RISK OF DYING FROM BOREDOM
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 10, 2017
“Police arrest Hurricane Irma looters caught on camera” via Trevor Hughes of USA TODAY – Fort Lauderdale police said they arrested nine people Sunday on suspicion of looting a pawn shop and nearby shoe store. Two teens were arrested for breaking into six homes Saturday night as the storm intensified. The Broward County sheriff’s office said the two teens were arrested in Weston, about 35 miles north of Miami, after evacuated homeowners, watching their houses remotely, saw the teens breaking in. One of the teens was shot and wounded by a deputy, the sheriff’s office said. “Going to prison over a pair of sneakers is a fairly bad life decision,” Fort Lauderdale police Chief Rick Maglione said in a statement. “Stay home and look after your loved ones and be thankful they are all safe.”
— THE COVERAGE —
“As Irma’s winds rose, so does a debate over TV storm reporting” via Sopan Deb of The New York Times – Early Sunday morning, Bill Weir, a veteran CNN correspondent, was talking to the anchor Chris Cuomo in the middle of a live shot in Key Largo … He could barely stand up straight in the lashing winds of Hurricane Irma. At one point, he was nearly blown over by a gust. As video of the incident spread on social media, criticism mounted. “Why do these news networks feel the need to put these reporters out there?” read one tweet. Another said: “This is not safe. Lead by example.” Others pointed out that reporters were standing in conditions that they were advising residents to stay out of. Even Cuomo acknowledged the criticism: “There is a strong argument to be made that standing in a storm is not a smart thing to do.”
“Sensing disaster, TV network heavyweights converge on Tampa” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – With Hurricane Irma on a collision course with the Tampa Bay area, satellite trucks and top TV network talent took up positions along Tampa’s Riverwalk Sunday. For Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has done something like three dozen interviews over the past few days, that means a lot of requests for live TV appearances. Sunday morning, he set out with a police driver and a couple of staffers for an interview with NBC’s Today Show. The destination, as far as anyone knew: The Tampa Convention Center. En route, downtown was virtually deserted. So was the convention center. No NBC. So the SUV headed north, pausing in the parking lot of the CapTrust building … the SUV headed north, toward a satellite crew set up behind the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel. But that was CNN. A couple of crew members chatted up and shot selfies with Buckhorn, whose younger brother Burke is a CNN video journalist based in Washington, D.C. Buckhorn called out to Anderson Cooper, whom he met in 2000 when Cooper came to Tampa for a story on lap-dancing, when Buckhorn was on the City Council and was the scourge of Tampa’s nude-dancing clubs.
“Rick Scott gets national airtime as Irma batters Florida’s peninsula” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – With Hurricane Irma affecting much of southern Florida by Sunday morning — making travel unsafe — Scott remains in the state’s capital city. He’s staying busy — spending four hours going from national TV interview to national TV interview, with the state Emergency Operations Center as his photogenic backdrop. He His line-up started at 7 a.m. and includes almost all the networks, several more than once: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Weather Channel, Fox News and Fox Business. (No MSNBC.)
“Scott’s sign interpreter creating buzz on social media” via Johnny Diaz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – … for his enthusiastic and dramatic flair during press conferences. Twitter followers have commented on the interpreter’s animated expressions as he conveys Scott’s seriousness that Floridians need to evacuate to shelters and take care during Hurricane Irma as it approaches the state. During a news conference in Sarasota … Scott said, “This is a life-threatening situation. If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now. Do not wait. Evacuate,’’ and his interpreter captured that urgency by jabbing his hands, sticking out his tongue and swaying side to side. One person in Atlanta said, “the sign language interpreter is giving ALL the face. Well done sir.”
– “Anxiety, panic, work: A reporter’s day with storm hours out” via Tamara Lush
— LIGHTS OUT —
— Sascha Cordner (@SaschaCordner) September 11, 2017
“Floridians should expect days without power” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – “We are already responding to Hurricane Irma with the largest pre-storm restoration workforce ever assembled, not just in our company’s history, but in U.S. history,” Florida Power & Light President and CEO Eric Silagy said in a prepared statement. “We have an army of more than 16,000 hardworking men and women committed to restoring power as the first bands of severe weather impact our service territory, and they will work continuously before, during and after the storm clears until all customers have power again.” Florida Power & Light has projected that more than 80 percent of its 10 million customers across Florida — 4.1 million of its 5 million customer accounts – may experience power outages as the storm crosses the state. Duke Energy Florida is also anticipating “significant, widespread power outages” for its 1.8 million customers in Florida. Duke said it has about 7,000 line workers, tree professionals and damage-assessment crews set up for Irma, with additional assistance on the way from the Midwest.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) September 9, 2017
— Peter King (@PeterKingCBS) September 10, 2017
— THE RESPONSE —
“Marco Rubio asks FEMA to prioritize debris removal from Florida roads” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Rubio sent a letter to FEMA administrator William Long to urge the federal government to prioritize debris removal on roads after the storm passes through. “Local leaders and I are particularly concerned about debris removal on county, state and private roads that serve as crucial access points to hospitals and serve as important conduits to aide those in need, or who need to evacuate post-storm,” Rubio said in a letter. “These must be clear so that emergency services and utility repair crews are able to do their jobs. Also, the storm is a significant threat to Florida’s numerous inland and coastal bridges, which may be rendered impassable following the storm, cutting off residents from life-saving assistance and recovery resources. I urge your agency to work with the state of Florida to rapidly assess the connectivity of Florida’s road networks after the storm has passed and ensure that these residents are identified and assisted as quickly as possible.”
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) September 10, 2017
Rick Scott in Pensacola to position response for Irma” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal – Scott was flying to Pensacola, which has one of the few airports in the state still open. “It’s a good position for him to get to South Florida immediately following the storm passing that area,” spokesman McKinley Lewis said.
Keys get airborne relief – An airborne relief mission is bringing emergency supplies to the Florida Keys, where Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning. Monroe County spokeswoman Cammy Clark said help is coming in C-130 cargo planes and other air resources. Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt calls it a humanitarian crisis.
“Airbnb offers free homes to evacuees” via Lucinda Shen of Fortune – In a bid to help some evacuees find shelter, home-sharing site Airbnb has compiled a database of its hosts who are willing to open up their doors for those displaced by the oncoming natural disaster. According to the website, some 84 hosts in the Atlanta, Tallahassee, and Pensacola areas have opened up their homes for free between Sept. 6 to Sept. 28. “We are looking to host people displaced by Hurricane Irma,” wrote Daniel of Atlanta who is offering one bedroom. “As someone affected by Katrina, I know how hard it can be and we’d love to open our home to help get someone off the highway and into a safe space to crash for a while.”
“School employees shift into storm mode” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – 63 schools are available as potential shelters if activated by Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center. 15 schools are open now or will soon be open as shelters. Approx. 1,200 district employees are working or on standby to assist in managing shelters and feeding evacuees 50 school buses were deployed with volunteer drivers to evacuate people with special needs. These buses will be on the road continuously, rotating in fresh drivers. 59,500 gallons of milk is being delivered by Student Nutrition Services staff as part of an effort to feed up to 34,000 meals each day to evacuees.
— THE POLITICS —
“Florida residents want to know why Donald Trump isn’t opening his resorts to hurricane victims” via Caroline Orr of Shareblue Media – As shelters filled to capacity ahead of Hurricane Irma’s imminent arrival in South Florida, some residents are asking why Trump isn’t stepping up to help them. In an interview with The Independent, Florida resident Rick Castillo described how South Floridians were coming together to help one another prepare for the storm, and questioned why the president wasn’t doing the same. Calling on Trump to open his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort as a hurricane shelter, Castillo said, “He should be doing anything to help the public.” … “When people need help, you either help or you turn your head. I think Trump is turning his head,” he continued. The Trump Organization owns at least eight resorts and golf clubs in South Florida, including Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, as well as three properties in Sunny Isles, one in Hollywood Beach, one in West Palm Beach, one in Jupiter and one in Doral. While Mar-a-Lago is in a mandatory evacuation zone, several other Trump resorts are keeping their doors open during the hurricane — but only to paying customers, not to residents seeking refuge from the storm.
“Trump to go to Florida ‘very soon’” via Allie Malloy and Rene Marsh of CNN – Trump lauded the response to Hurricane Irma upon returning to the White House from Camp David … adding that he intends to go to Florida “very soon” to survey the recovery efforts. “I think it’s been going really well,” Trump told reporters. “I mean the bad news is this is some big monster, but I think we’re really well-coordinated.”
“Trump: Hurricanes are helping the Coast Guard improve its ‘brand’” via Jacqueline Thomsen of The Hill – Trump told a reporter that the country has “great people” responding to the massive storms and that “a group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard,” according to a White House pool report. “What they’ve done — I mean, they’ve gone right into that, and you never know. When you go in there, you don’t know if you’re going to come out. They are really — if you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard,” Trump said.
“Miami’s mayor: ‘If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is’” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Speaking from Miami’s Emergency Operation Center in downtown, where the city’s senior public safety and political authorities will ride out Category 4 Hurricane Irma this weekend, Mayor Tomás Regalado [said] he believes warming and rising seas are threatening South Florida’s immediate and long-term future. “This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decision needs to talk about climate change,” said Regalado, who flew back to Miami from Argentina Friday morning to be in the city during the storm. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”
— THE RECOVERY —
“Former presidents add Florida relief to their efforts” via Brent Griffiths of POLITICO – All five living, former U.S. presidents have officially expanded their disaster relief appeal to include Hurricane Irma … According to former President George H.W. Bush‘s spokesman, the One America Appeal launched last week will now include the Florida Disaster Fund, the state’s official, private fund established to assist local communities. Bush was joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in a PSA announcement released last week, which later aired nationwide Thursday, during the NFL kickoff game on NBC. Another PSA message will be airing during all NFL telecasts Sunday and again Monday night. The fund was established through the 41st president’s library and foundation to help respond to Hurricane Harvey … For its Harvey efforts, the One America Appeal is working with the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and the Rebuild Texas Fund. The second fund was activated by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “One hundred percent of funds donated to the Florida Disaster Fund will go toward disaster-related response and recovery because the fund has no overhead costs,” Sunday’s announcement stated.
“FEMA sees trailers only as last resort after Harvey, Irma” via The Associated Press – Manufactured homes are turning out to be just a small fraction of the federal government’s plan to deal with displaced people, with only 1,700 trailers available. Where exactly the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to send those trailers, Texas or Florida, is not yet clear. But what is clear is they will only be used as a last resort. That’s in stark contrast to 2005, when 144,000 FEMA trailers became symbols of the troubled federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita after lawsuits accused some of those units of being riddled with high levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. FEMA’s new model for monster storms honed in the wake of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy puts the emphasis on paying for hotels and apartments for temporary housing. That, along with money for super-fast fixes that allow people to move back into their own homes as quickly as possible, even before all the repairs are done. “Our role is to provide sort of the bridge to get through the disaster,” FEMA spokesman Kurt Pickering said. “We are not intended to make people or households back the way they were before, to make them whole. We’re designed to get them through the emergency.”
“House and Senate offices to remain closed Monday and Tuesday” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO – Florida House and Senate offices will remain closed through Tuesday, legislative leaders said Saturday morning. “Please continue to be safe and cautious,” Senate President Joe Negron told senators in an email on Saturday. “My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families during this challenging and uncertain time.” … House and Senate interim committee meetings next week were canceled earlier this week. House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Friday told his chamber on Friday to “be prepared to convene in special session” if storm recovery efforts require legislative authorization.
“FSU, FAMU to close through Friday via the Tallahassee Democrat – As Hurricane Irma’s track continues to push toward a possible Big Bend landfall, Florida State University announced that it will shutter the campus through Friday. Florida A&M University also announced it will be closed through Friday. FSU will also open a campus facility for off-campus students who feel unsafe in their current living situation. They will be allowed to shelter there for the duration of the storm. Leon County Schools spokesman Chris Petley said a decision about extending school closures will be made Tuesday. Tallahassee Community College remains closed through Tuesday and expects to reopen Wednesday, a spokesman said Saturday evening.
– “Hurricane Irma forces UCF to remain closed through Wednesday” via Isabelle D’Antonio and Iliana Limón Romero of the Orlando Sentinel
— REMNANTS —
Florida sheriff who threatened arrests at shelters is sued” via Krista Torralva and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – A man who claims he was denied entry to a shelter unless he underwent a background check is suing Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who got national attention after saying on Twitter he would jail anyone with an outstanding warrant who tried to seek shelter from Hurricane Irma. Judd called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said he would not change his policy. The sheriff said his stance was to prevent registered sex offenders from entering shelters. But the suit filed by immigrant rights group Nexus Services states Florida driver’s licenses already clearly mark someone as a sex offender. They claim the policy was discriminatory and violates Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure. The suit, which attorney Cynthia Conlin said was electronically filed Sunday but hadn’t yet been processed by the 10th Judicial Circuit Court, claims Andres Borreno of Virginia was told by Polk County deputies he would have to submit to a criminal background check before he was able to enter a shelter Saturday. The suit doesn’t say if Borreno had an outstanding warrant.
“Friends discovery, Facebook save 2 Manatees on Sarasota” via the Herald-Tribune – A couple of friends who were curious what the outer bands of Hurricane Irma were stirring up outside their shelter looked at the unusual receding waters of Sarasota Bay and noticed two manatees stranded on land that was once covered by water. Irma still more than 100 miles away from Sarasota has sucked water inward toward its eyewall causing hundreds of yards of shoreline to vanish quickly in the Bay and beaching the sea cows.
The five friends — Tony Faradini-Campos, Emily Reisinger, Steven Reisinger, Michael Sechler and Donovan Norton — walked out to the “blob” on Sarasota Bay and photographed the manatees hoping that by sharing the story on Facebook officials would come out to rescue the animals. …The post generated over 6,100 shares and over 787 comments within four hours. Two Manatee County deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials noticed the plea for help and responded to the scene to move the animals.
“She delivered baby at home because Hurricane Irma kept the paramedics away” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – A pregnant woman in Little Haiti wasn’t quite so lucky. WAct ith paramedics unable to go out into the storm, a dispatcher talked the woman through delivering her baby at home Sunday morning, according to Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia. “We weren’t able to respond. So she delivered the placenta, also. Dispatch told her how to tie it off. She’s stable at home,” Garcia said. “We made contact with the assistant medical director here. Talked things through.” Mom and baby girl were later taken to the hospital by emergency workers. Pete Gomez, Miami’s emergency management director, said conditions remained dangerous, so replacement crews would not be coming in until the weather improves. “We’ve got to follow our protocol,” he said.
“Signs, signs, everywhere signs—including Mike Haridopolos’ house” via Florida Politics – Haridopolos didn’t let something like a plywood shortage stop him from protecting his Melbourne home with Hurricane Irma on the way. The former Senate President (2010-12) instead put his old campaign signs to use, using them to cover a large window on the front of his house, on the Banana River about a mile from the Atlantic. As he posted on Twitter Thursday morning: “Long lines and no plywood left at local stores yesterday so we decided to improvise. #stayawayirma.” “My wife came home yesterday and started laughing,” he said in a phone interview. “I said, ‘Look honey, I’m just trying to protect ourselves.’ It’s better than nothing.”
Happy birthday belatedly to Katie Ballard. Celebrating today is Daniel Diaz-Leyva.