Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 9.7.17 – Irma brings death, destruction in Caribbean; watches likely today in Florida

in Peter/Top Headlines by

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Hurricane watches will likely be issued for portions of the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula later on Thursday morning.

Hurricane Irma has killed at least ten people and injured 23 in French Caribbean island territories as the dangerous Category 5 storm roared over the Caribbean, France’s interior minister said.

Hurricane Irma has become a little less organized during the past few hours but it remains a dangerous Category 5 hurricane. At 5 a.m., maximum sustained winds are 180 mph.

This morning it is moving WNW at 17 mph and the center of Irma is forecast to stay just north of Hispaniola today. Hurricane Hunters will be back in Irma in a few hours.

We still expect it to impact the Turks and Caicos and parts of the Bahamas during the next couple of days and move near or north of Cuba on Friday and Saturday.

The computer models show Irma making a north turn sometime on Saturday or Saturday night (depending on the model). That is the crucial part of the forecast for us here in Florida. Some of the models show Irma making that north turn faster than others.

That would make the difference between a possible landfall in our state and who would get the strongest winds and feel the most impacts from this major hurricane.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson want money added to Harvey package” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach PostRubio and Democrat Bill Nelson want Congress to add money for Hurricane Irma to a $7.9 billion disaster relief bill for Hurricane Harvey that passed the House … “Hurricane Irma is now one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and is currently on track to make landfall in South Florida as early as Sunday,” say Rubio and Nelson in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer. FEMA is expected to run out of money Friday, Rubio and Nelson write, but Floridians “need to know that the federal government is both ready and willing to direct the necessary resources needed to help them in the recovery process. As such, we strongly urge you to include additional funding in the Hurricane Harvey aid package to account for the additional costs FEMA will likely incur responding to Hurricane Irma.”

“Pam Bondi takes on price gougers” via Florida Politics – Attorney General Bondi has declared war on price-gouging as Hurricane Irma continues its trek toward the state. She met with reporters Wednesday evening at her Tallahassee price-gouging call center. Bondi said staffers have logged roughly 1,500 complaints since she activated the state’s hotline at (866) 9-NO-SCAM on Monday … Most complaints are coming from South Florida over inflated costs for food, bottled water and ice, she said. Over 100 were on overpriced gasoline … Bondi personally had chats with Amazon, the world’s largest Internet-based retailer, among others. “I’m losing my voice from calling all these people,” she said … State law allows Bondi to go after merchants who charge “unconscionable prices” with civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations in a 24-hour period. “And I can also—and will—destroy their reputations,” she added.

Citizens Property could face more than 100K in Irma-related claims” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – The state’s second-largest property insurer, could have more than 100,000 claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma … Barry Gilway, Citizens’ president and CEO, told members of the Citizens governing board there could be a large number of claims from the deadly storm that was taking aim at Florida — despite years of aggressive efforts to shrink the number of customers covered by the carrier. The latest forecast puts about 262,000 policies in Citizens in the potential path or “cone of danger” for the path of Hurricane Irma. Gilway said Citizens should have estimates of insured losses and damages within 48 hours after the storm hits the state. After discussing the potential impact, the board that oversees Citizens also gave Gilway approval to waive policies and to amend contracts if necessary. The board also approved a contract for independent adjusting services. In all, the Citizens board authorized spending $343.9 million for the adjusting services, including renewals.

“Two South Florida nuclear power plants lie in Irma’s path. Are they ready?” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – The last time a major hurricane hit the Turkey Point nuclear power plant, it caused $90 million in damages but left the nuclear reactors along southern Biscayne Bay unscathed. In anticipation of powerful Hurricane Irma, which projections on Wednesday showed headed straight for South Florida, Florida Power & Light’s two nuclear plants were finalizing staffing plans and cleaning up the grounds. But neither Turkey Point nor the St. Lucie plant further up the coast had made the call yet to shutting down the plants. Peter Robbins, spokesman for FPL, said shutting down a reactor is a gradual process, and the decision will be made “well in advance” of the storm making landfall. “If we anticipate there will be direct impacts on either facility we’ll shut down the units,” he said.

Atlanta Motor Speedway opens campsite to Irma evacuees” via The Associated Press – Atlanta Motor Speedway officials said in a statement that its tent and RV campgrounds will host evacuees free of charge beginning Thursday. The speedway is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Atlanta, and typically handles thousands of race fans who camp on the grounds during its annual NASCAR race weekend.

Airlines prepare to cancel flights in Hurricane Irma’s path” via The Associated Press – American Airlines says it will begin shutting down operations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Sarasota and West Palm Beach by Friday afternoon and cancel flights through the weekend. By Wednesday afternoon, American, United, Delta and JetBlue offered waivers letting customers change travel plans to Florida and the Caribbean without the usual charges for changing a ticket. Dates and covered locations varied. reports that about 170 flights, roughly two-thirds of those scheduled, were canceled by late Wednesday afternoon at Luis Munoz Marin Airport International Airport near San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Judd: Polk deputies will be checking IDs at storm shelters” via The Ledger – Law enforcement officers will be checking identifications at storm shelters and taking anyone with an outstanding warrant to jail, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday on Twitter. “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period,” Judd wrote as Hurricane Irma ripped its way into the Greater Antilles and bore down on Florida.

Tweet, tweet:

Bill Nelson to NOAA: Where are those extra hurricane planes we sought?” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics Nelson called it “unacceptable” that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken no steps to secure backup “hurricane hunter” airplanes since Congress approved them early this year. “As the nation recovers from Hurricane Harvey and watches the model runs for Hurricane Irma with an increasing sense of concern, NOAA has taken no major steps to acquire reliable backup – at grave threat to public safety,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Benjamin Friedman, acting under secretary of the Department of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency has only one set of “hurricane hunter” aircraft, which probe hurricanes to retrieve meteorological data critical to assessing their strength and forecasting their routes and impacts. Key are the Lockheed WP-3D Orion four-engine turboprop that can fly into hurricanes to probe wind and pressure changes, and the Gulfstream IV-SP jet, which flies above storms to collect data on the weather systems in the upper atmosphere surrounding developing hurricanes.

Inside Hurricane Irma Tuesday, shot from a Lockheed WP-3D Orion by Commander Justin Kibbey, NOAA.

Comcast to provide free hotspots in Florida – The internet and cable-TV company will be “opening more than 137,000 free Xfinity WiFi hotspots” throughout the state, Gov. Scott tweeted Wednesday. A map can be found here. The hotspots will be available to both Xfinity and non-Xfinity subscribers at no cost. Users can select the “xfinitywifi” network if they are in range. “Non-subscribers will be directed to a sign-in page that will allow them access through Sept. 15, getting two hours of use each time before having to sign back in,” a press release said.

— “How to build a Category 5 hurricane” via Willie Drye of National Geographic

— “Dolphins-Bucs game postponed until November due to Hurricane Irma” via Chris Perkins of the Orlando Sentinel

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. #NeverStopReaching***


Six tips for Trump to be more presidential in Florida” via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post – Crowd size isn’t relevant during speeches you make at emergency management centers …Hurricanes should not be an opportunity to sell your campaign merchandise …Hurricanes should not be described in the same way you refer to your election victory … Being at a hurricane shelter is awful … Don’t blame the media for not being the Coast Guard … If you’re going to console the nation via Twitter, console us first by learning the language. “Texas is heeling fast,” you wrote after Harvey.

“Limbaugh: Hurricane Irma coverage is liberal media plot to advance ‘climate-change agenda,’” via Malia Griggs of The Daily Beast  Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday lambasted the ‘drive-by media’ for covering Hurricane Irma’s potential devastation as a means to further its climate-change ‘panic.’ His theory, which he shared at length this afternoon on The Rush Limbaugh Show, is that media and retailers are in cahoots to increase viewership and profits. And to hammer home to people that climate change exists. “There is a desire to advance this climate-change agenda,” Limbaugh said, “and hurricanes are one of the fastest [ways] to do it.


Board votes to expand Citizens’ emergency response powers” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – The board of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. unanimously approved two items that expand the state insurer’s powers to respond to emergencies ahead of Hurricane Irma. “What the board did was sort of streamline the procedures before the wind starts to blow here,” said Michael Peltier, Citizens spokesperson. One item allows Citizens to hire more vendors and buy more goods and services related to initial emergency response, such as contracts for claims adjustment services. The cost is expected to exceed $50 million. It includes an optional extension. The other item approved contracts for a little more than 300 independent adjusters to help with claims resulting from Hurricane Irma. Adjusters are insurance agents that go out into the field to assess damage associated with a claim. Paired with a previous round of contracts, Citizens will have about 800 extra adjusters on hand for the hurricane.

Internet cafés: They’re back” via David Cawton of the Jax Daily Record – The internet cafés are returning after the Florida Legislature in 2013 adopted new regulations in the wake of the shutdown of 49 Allied Veterans of the World internet cafés. Also fueling their comeback is an unresolved 2015 lawsuit in which the Florida Department Business and Professional Regulation is challenging a computer game system licensed to Jacksonville-based Gator Coin II Inc. Since March 2016, at least 118 internet café businesses have applied to the city for a Certificate of Use. The city has approved 38 certificates and denied 80 for noncompliance with the building code or fire code. City Council members are taking note. At least three City Council members don’t want them. Katrina Brown, District 8, Reginald Brown, District 10, and Scott Wilson, District 4, have questioned the legality of the businesses. “I’d prefer to have them out of our city,” said Wilson. “They’re not a positive thing, that’s for sure.”

New law blocks release of witness identities” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – Pointing to a new state law, an appeals court ruled that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office does not have to disclose the names of witnesses to a February murder on Interstate 95. A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled against the Sun Sentinel newspaper, which filed a public-records lawsuit after the sheriff’s office refused to release the names of people who witnessed the murder and pursued the shooter. A Palm Beach County circuit judge ruled in favor of the Sun Sentinel, issuing a final order April 6 that said the names of the witnesses should be disclosed under the public-records law. But May 9, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a new public-records exemption (HB 111) that keeps confidential the identities of murder witnesses for two years after murders occur. The appeals court said Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele had ruled correctly under the law as it existed in April. But the appeals court said the new law applies retroactively to the case and that the information the Sun Sentinel “requests falls comfortably within the newly enacted exemption.”

What Mike Griffin is reading –USF meets long-awaited academic requirement that will make it millions” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The University of South Florida has achieved pre-eminence, system President Judy Genshaft announced … The school’s six-year graduation rate reached 70 percent following this summer semester. The elite status means millions in additional state funding and puts the school in the same class as the University of Florida and Florida State University, the only other two public universities with pre-eminent status. USF had been on track to earn an additional $16 million in funding this year for achieving pre-eminence, but lost it after the Florida Legislature approved a controversial change to pre-eminent guidelines that shifted the goalpost on USF’s path to obtaining the prestigious title. Gov. Scott vetoed that change along with a broader public education bill. Under Florida law, schools must meet 11 of 12 criteria in order to obtain the status. USF had already met 10 and was on track to meet an 11th — a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent. The school offered proof to lawmakers they were on track and the funding was approved, but after the benchmark changed that funding was split between UF and FSU. USF will qualify for additional funds in the next fiscal year.


“Legislative committee week canceled” via Florida PoliticsSenate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran have canceled next week’s legislative committee week because of Hurricane Irma, they said in separate memos to members Wednesday. Negron also said Senate offices in the Capitol “will remain open during regular business hours tomorrow (Thursday) … District staff should contact each Senator to determine appropriate office hours in your district offices as the storm approaches.” He added, “As a precautionary measure, consistent with the Governor’s decision to close state offices in all 67 counties, I have authorized discretionary leave for all Senate employees, and all Senate offices will be closed on Friday.” … In his memo, Corcoran said the next committee week would be Oct. 9-13. He also ordered all House offices closed on Friday.

State Sen. Lauren Book and her “walk team” distributed hurricane preparedness supplies in Broward County this week.

“Chris Nocco files constitutional proposal for crime victim rights” via Florida Politics – Pasco County Sheriff and Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) member Nocco on Wednesday filed his proposed constitutional amendment to give equal rights to crime victims. The amendment, if placed on the 2018 statewide ballot and passed by 60 percent of voters, would create a “Marsy’s Law” for Florida. If approved, victims and their families would be informed of their rights and services available, and would be notified of major developments in a criminal case and of changes to an offender’s custodial status, such as being released on bail. It would allow victims and their families the right to be present — and heard — at court proceedings, providing feedback to the prosecutor before finalizing a plea agreement and establishing a right to restitution from the convicted. “I believe victims of crime should have the same rights as the accused and should be treated fairly and with dignity,” Nocco said.


“Mike Fernandez rips ‘bully’ Richard Corcoran’s DACA stance” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “We currently have a Speaker of the House in Florida in which the consensus among his peers can be best defined as a bully,” Fernandez said in an email. “This may be the case, but in my humble opinion, he truly is an intellectual midget (or short person to be politically correct). His position on the 32,000 Floridian attending our universities is discriminatory at the very least. It may be legal, but so was slavery and that did not make it right. “ Corcoran praised President Donald Trump’s move to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, saying “anything less would have been a tacit acceptance of President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan for illegal immigrants” … Fernandez, who left the GOP over Trump, called Corcoran’s position “horrendous to our economy. President Trump’s action sidesteps the issue by passing it off to Congress, but there are real consequences for our nation and the state of Florida if this giant in his own mind gets his way, as this is not a platform on which Republicans can stand.”

“Ron DeSantis: Trump had duty to scrap Obama’s ‘executive amnesty’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times  Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, a possible candidate for governor, doesn’t expressly rule out helping young immigrants now in limbo but said ‘Congress should not increase incentives for illegal immigration.’ ‘The Obama executive amnesty is not constitutional and President Trump was duty bound to discontinue it,’ DeSantis said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

Democrats launch super PAC to win back statehouses” via Gabrielle Debenedetti of POLITICO – Aiming to play a similar role as Senate Majority PAC does for Senate races and House Majority PAC does for House races, Forward Majority is launching this week as a vehicle for winning back state legislatures ahead of the next round of redistricting in 2021. Led by a group of Barack Obama campaign alums and veterans of Democratic politics and the business world, the organization is kicking off with a $1 million prototype effort to play in races for Virginia’s House of Delegates this year. It’s aiming to raise up to $100 million to win back legislative bodies in 12 states over the next four years … Forward Majority’s model includes targeting more races than most local parties or state caucuses are likely to touch. The goal is to flip chambers from GOP hands to Democratic control by using the kinds of expensive campaign tactics seldom used in such local races, including polling and message testing. The group was founded by executive director David Cohen, a top Obama 2008 official who managed the then-candidate’s national mail program after leading his primary campaigns in multiple states, and chief operating officer Vicky Hausman, a longtime strategist at Dalberg.

Happening tonight Jack Latvala will hold the first fundraiser of his gubernatorial campaign. The event starts 5 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road. Those who didn’t get an invite but are looking to hop on the “#IBackJack” train can RSVP via 800-989-9566 or [email protected]

Happening tonightRyan Torrens, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, is scheduled to speak at the 7 p.m. meeting of the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee, South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road in Delray Beach.

Annette Taddeo, José Felix Diaz temporarily suspending Senate campaigns for Hurricane Irma” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – … to do the same “to ensure our teams and their families can prepare for the storm” … “Our community’s safety must be our singular focus right now,” Taddeo said in a statement. “Therefore, I have instructed my team to move to immediately suspend campaign activities and have asked that we pause any advertising from airing as soon as possible.” In a statement, Diaz indicated he had quietly already taken similar steps earlier this week

HD 29 Democrat Patrick Brandt to campaign on springs, schools, health care” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics Brandt, 47, a lawyer from Longwood, filed earlier this week to oppose Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon. Brandt said he is engaging with Gainesville Democratic political consultant Brian Eastman and bringing on other staff already … Brandt, originally from Iowa, worked for Walt Disney World for 16 years, as an emcee, before earning a law degree from Florida A&M University Law School in Orlando in 2014 and becoming a lawyer representing businesses and homeowners in insurance disputes. “I moved to Seminole county for the reason most everyone moves here: the incredible schools and the counties natural beauty. I support protecting our rivers and our natural springs. I support our public schools and the teachers who make them extraordinary. I believe in our booming industries especially technology and innovation,” Brandt said in a written statement.

— ALOE —

Walmart says these will be the 25 toys every kid wants this holiday” via Dennis Green of Business Insider – Walmart will have 1,000 new toys this holiday season, and a quarter of them will be exclusive to the retailer: Dusty the Super Duper Garbage Truck; Disney Frozen 12-Volt Ride-On Sleigh; Monster Jam Grave Digger 24-Volt Battery Powered Ride-On; Nerf Rival Nemesis MXVII-10K; Huffy Electric Green Machine 24 Volt Battery-Powered Ride On; LittleBits Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit; Mattel Barbie DreamHorse; Disney/Pixar Cars 3 Ultimate Florida Speedway; Adventure Force Light Command Light-up Motorized Blaster and Soggy Doggy Board Game.

Happy birthday to state Sen. Bobby Powell.


Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Latest from Peter

Go to Top