Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Joe Henderson, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
The winds have died and the mopping up has begun. Businesses are reopening as people head back to work while dealing, at least for now, with their new realities.
I know people whose homes were badly damaged by this storm, while others – myself luckily included – had only minor inconveniences. No matter whether Irma dealt you a mighty blow or a glancing scratch, we’re all in this together.
That’s why the most important questions in Irma’s wake is what we learned about the experience, and whether those lessons will stay with us as we go forward into what seems increasingly to be an era of super storms.
They had better.
HAVE A PLAN: You know all those TV people who start preaching in June about the necessity of having a hurricane plan? Maybe everyone ought to listen.
When the news of Irma’s impending arrival became real, there was a rush on water, batteries, flashlights, and necessities like canned goods. Those things are a lot more available in June than they are 48 hours before a Category 5 hurricane is predicted to strike.
Water doesn’t spoil.
If you have bought supplies in the past, you might want to update the inventory. On Saturday, after shelves had been cleared out and stores started to close, we confidently pulled out the giant plastic container that kept the supply of size “C” and “D” batteries. They were right where we left them.
They also had expired in 2011.
CUT FORECASTERS A BREAK: I actually heard some people complain weather forecasters were totally wrong on this one because Irma didn’t follow the initial projected paths. That’s crazy.
They routinely warned viewers that even the slightest change in conditions could send the hurricane off in many directions. They emphasized everyone was in danger, and everyone had to prepare like they were going to be directly in the damage path.
Even with the advanced and other equipment, plotting an exact course of these storms can be an inexact science. They get it right more often than not, though.
I remember hearing Steve Jerve of WFLA-TV in Tampa say last Friday that the eye of Irma likely would pass just east of the city, which is exactly what it did.
SHELTER FROM THE STORM: People seem to have this one down. Shelters filled early as people wisely took no chances, Hillsborough County had to open more.
I wonder, though, if the story would have been the same had Irma stayed on the original east-coast track. Given the size of the storm, that could have been catastrophic here. Some people in Miami probably thought they were safe when Irma moved west.
How did that work out?
A POLITICAL MODEL: Future leaders take note: Gov. Rick Scott again provided a blueprint for how someone in his position is supposed to lead during a threat like this.
Like last year with Hurricane Matthew, Scott was here, there and everywhere, sounding the warning early, often and loudly.
As someone noted, when you see Rick Scott wearing the Navy ballcap, you know it’s getting real.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was all over TV, radio and Twitter with similar warnings. He gets the quote of the week with his one about how after 90 years of avoiding, Tampa was about to “get punched in the mouth.”
DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Remember the lessons from this adventure because there will be a test. Just look at 2004 after Hurricane Charley left devastation in its path. Three more storms followed.
Wanna bet this won’t happen again?
“Rick Scott’s make-or-break moment” via Matt Dixon, Marc Caputo and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – While millions of Floridians are now dealing with flooding and power outages, Scott‘s preparation and response to the storm — a logistical nightmare that affected nearly every inch of the nation’s third largest state — have so far won praise. He’s had a nearly ubiquitous television presence, providing constant storm updates while overseeing one of the largest regional evacuations in U.S. history — and he’s leaned heavily on his close relationship with President Trump, whom he vocally supported in 2016. The two spoke daily as the storm approached, and the Trump administration quickly approved Scott’s request for a disaster declaration, which made available additional federal funds for the storm. “Trump’s given me everything I’ve asked for,” Scott [said] … Scott’s role in the Irma drama comes as he considers whether to heed Trump’s pleas and challenge Sen. Bill Nelson … and a successful Irma response could bolster a potential Scott 2018 campaign. But neither Florida nor Scott, three years into his second term as governor, is out of the woods yet. The coming days will bring a fuller accounting of the damage wrought by Irma as swaths of the state face a long, costly road to recovery.
– “Scott gets kudos for Hurricane Irma response, but work remains” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel
“Does Gov. Scott’s tight control of information matter in an emergency?” via Mary Ellen Klas, Steve Bousquet and Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – For the past week, Scott has been the state’s omnipresent face before the cameras on storm preparation. His emergency operations team, working with many veteran emergency officials at the local level, escorted the state through an orderly and massive evacuation, pivoting quickly as the storm shifted to open shelters and order evacuations. Through it all, Scott’s office kept careful control of basic information, tamped down attempts at flushing out reports about trouble spots, and pushed out the positive messages, relying mostly on Twitter and Facebook streams at a time when millions of Floridians don’t have electricity and may not have reliable access to the internet. His communications team blocked reporters from listening in to the twice-daily briefings in which emergency operations officials provide routine data about preparation, response, unmet needs and troubleshooting strategies. They excluded basic details from the twice-a-day reports distributed to the media about roads, evacuation routes, fuel shortages and elderly people stranded in harm’s way.
“His city spared, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn resumes life as a mayor in full” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – After sleeping for an hour on the floor next to a treadmill in an exercise room at Tampa’s emergency operations center, Mayor Bob Buckhorn ventured out for what was officially a tour of the damage from Hurricane Irma. But within a few miles, it felt more like a victory lap. “This is better than I expected,” Buckhorn said from the front seat of a black city SUV driven by a police detective. Minutes later, he called Air Force Col. April Vogel, the commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base. “Colonel, this is Swagger,” Buckhorn said, using the Top Gun-style nickname bestowed on him a few years back by pilots at the wing. “Just checking to see how you’re doing.” (Pause). “You don’t know how blessed we were.” (Pause.) “Yes, yes, yes. It certainly could have been very bad.” The good news had started with a 3 a.m. call from interim Police Chief Brian Dugan, who told Buckhorn some traffic lights were out on Dale Mabry Highway, but “he was astounded by how good it looked by comparison to what we expected it to look like,” Buckhorn said. In daylight, the assessment held … Generally, however, the mood reflected a perspective that cleanup and repair would be manageable, not catastrophic. Bayshore Boulevard, which floods in a no-name storm and gets trashed every year by the Gasparilla Pirate Invasion, looked good, all things considered.
“After Irma, Tampa area still at risk but not fully prepared” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press –Was Irma merely a dress rehearsal for The Big One? Study after study has shown the Tampa region is among the world’s most vulnerable when it comes to major storms. Yet so far it has failed to take some key precautions, such as burying power lines, ending the practice of filling and building in wetlands and putting brakes on residential development. “Floridians live for the day,” said Florida historian Gary Mormino of St. Petersburg. “You come here for paradise, and you don’t want to pay for ensuring paradise for the future. We dodged the big one this time, but there will be a reckoning someday.” A 2013 World Bank study that ranked cities according to their vulnerability to major storms placed Tampa at No. 7 among all cities in the world. A report released in June by CoreLogic, a global property information firm, said nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by hurricane storm surges, the most in any major U.S. metro area except Miami and New York City. And rebuilding all those homes could cost $80.6 billion, the report said. In 2016, the risk-management consultancy Karen Clark & Co. said Tampa Bay is the nation’s most vulnerable metro area to storm surge flooding caused by a once-in-century hurricane. The Boston-based firm said Tampa Bay acts as a “large funnel” for surges, forcing water into narrow channels and bayous with nowhere else to go. And that’s what was forecast for a several-hour spell Sunday morning: catastrophic storm surges, hours of 130 mph winds and massive destruction.
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— THE DAMAGE —
“Irma’s girth and path made for a bizarre Florida storm surge” via Seth Borenstein and Claire Galofaro of The Associated Press – A combination of storm surge, heavy rains and swollen rivers sent some of the worst flooding into Jacksonville even though Irma roared into the opposite end of the state, had weakened to a tropical storm and its eye stayed at least 80 miles away. Although preliminary data suggest Irma’s eye pushed a surge of more than 10 feet onto southwest Florida’s Marco Island, the highest water levels were reported hundreds of miles away in Jacksonville and Savannah, Georgia … and southwestern Florida, which is prone to surges, saw the opposite at first: a strange-looking negative surge that sucked the water off the sea floor quickly enough to maroon several manatees. After the water pulled away from the beaches and bay, it came back with vengeance, but much of Florida’s west coast wasn’t swamped as badly as it could have been because Irma’s track kept them safe from the storm’s stronger eastern side. “You can call it bizarre; I might call it unusual or unique,” said Rick Luettich, director of the Institute of Marine Studies at the University of North Carolina. “What was very unusual about it was, it spanned two coastlines that were in different-facing directions. As a result, you got the opposite behavior on both coastlines.”
“Irma destroys much of Florida citrus crop” via Kevin Bouffard of the Lakeland Ledger – In less than a day Hurricane Irma turned a once promising Florida citrus crop into a disaster with winds ripping as much as 75 percent of the fruit from their trees. “We had one of the best crops in five years if we could have delivered it,” said Paul Meador of Everglades Harvesting and Hauling in LaBelle, which manages about 3,000 orange grove acres in Southwest Florida. “Yes, it was devastating.” Meador estimated as much as 75 percent of his most mature oranges, the early and midseason varieties harvested from October to March, have already fallen off the trees, he said. As many as 50 percent of his late season Valencia oranges, harvested from March to June, are lost. And more fruit losses may come in the next few weeks because almost all of his groves are underwater in the rainfall Irma dumped on the area.
“Tampa man, using chain saw, dies in accident” via the Tampa Bay Reporter – Wilfredo Hernandez, 55, of Tampa, died at the scene. Paramedics were called to Town N Country Boulevard about 5:41 p.m. because of an accidental injury. Hernandez, who lived nearby, was using a chain saw in a tree, dropping branches he was cutting. Deputies said a branch became entangled with the chain saw, which kicked up and cut Hernandez in his carotid artery. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue used a harness to lower him from the tree.
“3 dead, 4 hospitalized with carbon-monoxide poisoning from generator after Hurricane Irma” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel – Three people died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from a generator that was running inside their Orange County home … Four other members of the multigenerational family were taken to Florida Hospital in very serious condition. Another dozen people in Brevard and Polk counties were poisoned Tuesday by carbon monoxide from generators running in their garages. The incidents should serve as a reminder for all Floridians dealing with power outages in Hurricane Irma’s wake to keep generators outside, Titusville Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Sutton said. Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and can be fatal when inhaled. “All across the state, this power is going to be a big deal,” Sutton said. “This is something that’s going to be going on for a long time.” Generators, which release carbon monoxide, should never be used indoors, in garages, or any place that is not well-ventilated.
“FPL says grid improvements helped avoid more widespread power outages” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Hurricane Irma could have caused more widespread power outages for longer periods if Florida Power & Light Co. had not spent $3 billion to improve the energy grid … Power, however, was out for 6.5 million customers, or 65 percent of customers statewide, as the former Hurricane Irma moved into South Georgia as a tropical storm, leaving a path of destruction behind in the Sunshine State. FPL and Duke Energy Florida, the state’s two largest utilities, bore the brunt of the massive storm that enveloped the state. FPL had about 4 million customers without power, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said. But he said it could have been worse if the state had not worked to strengthen the grid system with the $3 billion spent since 2006. “With this kind of storm what I can tell you is we would be facing a much longer restoration” without the work, Silagy said. Duke Energy had lost power to 1.3 million of its 1.7 million customers, or 74 percent.
“FEMA estimates 25 percent of Florida Keys homes are gone” via Jason Dearen and Martha Mendoza of The Associated Press – With 25 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys feared destroyed, emergency workers rushed to find Hurricane Irma’s victims – dead or alive – and deliver food and water to the stricken island chain. As crews labored to repair the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida’s mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation. But because of disrupted phone service and other damage, the full extent of the destruction was still a question mark, more than two days after Irma roared into the Keys with 130 mph winds. The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to 9.5 million – just under half of Florida’s population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across Florida.
“Water recedes, leaving different realties for Jacksonville” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union – A local politician once infamously said the story of Jacksonville is really a tale of two cities … one day after Hurricane Irma pushed water into places it hadn’t been in at least 150 years, destroying homes with floodwaters and debris — that was true. Five Points in Riverside looked Tuesday like the burgeoning restaurant-and-bar district it’s been known as for years — customers likely had to wait for seats. Just a few blocks away, water-logged streets remained evidence that something had gone terribly wrong in the city. “This storm has conquered me,” one resident said, reflecting on the damage floodwaters brought to his home on the corner of Copeland Street and River Boulevard. The precise scale of damage was still hard to pin down Tuesday. More than 125,000 JEA customers were still in the dark. Four city shelters remained open. Winds and rain damaged plenty of public infrastructure, including the riverwalks on the Northbank and Southbank. The Florida Department of Transportation is making emergency repairs to the Heckscher Drive Bridge at Browns Creek, which are estimated to last a week. Irma again battered the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier for the second year in a row. Beach dunes will have to be restored.
“Irma leaves some Everglades City residents with few options to rebuild” via Brett Murphy of the Naples Daily News – Hurricane Irma’s surge water had mostly receded from Everglades City and the small islands to the south, leaving mobile homes destroyed and low-income residents who couldn’t afford insurance with few options to start rebuilding. With its low-lying orientation near several canals, the small community of Plantation Island was one of the hardest hit in the state, home to its most vulnerable residents. FEMA spokesman John Mills urged everyone affected in the area to register for federal assistance from the agency, both owners and renters, and those with or without insurance. He didn’t specify when or if the agency would make temporary housing available to the people displaced by Irma around Everglades City. Mills said people without homes should immediately apply for assistance, which will likely come in the form of a subsidy toward a third-party rental option. “It’s much faster for people to stay somewhere that already exists rather than waiting,” Mills said.
“Immokalee residents struggle to find food” via Maria Perez and Ashley Collins of the Naples Daily News – On Tuesday, two days after the storm, some residents of Immokalee, a community where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line, were struggling to find food and gas. Without power for over two days, residents lost the food they had in their fridges and couldn’t cook what was still good. Some didn’t have the cash to buy supplies. Many stores were still closed, others had ran out of most supplies, and only a few still had canned food, fruit or bakery products. Many Immokalee residents didn’t know that a nonprofit was giving away food or that they could have a meal at the Immokalee High School, the only shelter in town still open. More than 12,500 clients don’t have electricity in Immokalee, and it can take more than a week before it’s restored to most of the town, said Karen Ryan, spokeswoman for LCEC.
Assignment editors: Gov. Scott is expected to tour flood damage in Clay County with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers. Later in the day, he is expected to tour Hurricane Irma damage in the Florida Keys. 9 a.m., Middleburg in Clay County.
“Rob Bradley: People will be ‘stunned’ by rural impacts of Irma” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – In its perilous path north across the Florida peninsula, Hurricane Irma certainly wreaked havoc in major cities. However, Sen. Bradley knows better than most how hard hit rural counties were by the storm. Many of those counties are in his district, which includes swaths of Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Suwannee and Union counties. “There has been understandable focus on the Keys and south Florida, and then Tampa and Orlando as the hurricane moved north. People are going to be surprised, even stunned, when the storm leaves our state and everyone sees what has happened to parts of northeast Florida,” Bradley noted … Some impacts — such as those on north central Florida and the Big Bend — Bradley has yet to assess. Others are known, including major impacts for Clay County, which Bradley said is “significantly impacted.”
– “Clay still plucking waterlogged survivors from Black Creek homes, roofs” via Teresa Stepinski of the Florida Times-Union
“Flooding from Hurricane Irma forces evacuation of hundreds from Osceola retirement community” via Caitlin Doornbos and Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel – Water levels at Shingle Creek were expected to rise Wednesday to almost 63 feet — the same height as a health care center and an assisted-living building on the campus, according to the Good Samaritan Society. Although the village has flooded in the past and was evacuated in 2004 after hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne, the water is at historic levels, said Osceola County spokesman Mark Pino. From outside the neighborhood off U.S. Highway 17-92, it looked as if an endless retention pond had spilled up to the front doors of the homes. Water buried the bottoms of several palm tree trunks. Only a lone building on high ground east of the floodwaters appeared to have stayed dry.
“Orlando mayor talks about storm damage” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Buddy Dyer joined city crews as they assessed damages in neighborhoods. “I couldn’t be more proud of how the community has come together to weather this storm,” said Dyer during a news conference at the city’s Emergency Operations Center. “I know it’s challenging but just be patient.” Dyer said city crews will remove storm debris from roadways and public right of ways first before beginning residential debris removal next week. Debris should be placed at the curb and not in the streets or blocking sidewalks. Items placed in the street can block access for solid waste trucks and clog storm drains. The city has received 275 reports of structural damage to homes and Dyer asked that residents use the Citizen’s Information Line (407-246-Help) to report damages so they can receive aid from FEMA. Nearly 300 trees are down and 55 involve power lines. Forty-five percent of trees that blocked roadways have been removed. The mayor said there were 13 trees down on one street in Baldwin Park, which was hit especially hard during Hurricane Irma.
“Kennedy Space Center remains closed, but spared major damage” via The Associated Press – Power was restored to NASA and Air Force facilities but water service was still out Tuesday. Until that’s restored, officials said Kennedy would stay closed to nonessential personnel. Inspection crews were out in full force. At Kennedy’s tourist area, life-size replicas of the space shuttle fuel tank and booster rockets were still standing outside the home of shuttle Atlantis. No major damage was reported at the visitor complex, which remains closed through Wednesday, and Atlantis and all other space artifacts were safe and in good shape, said spokeswoman Rebecca Shireman. “We dodged another bullet,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, who’s in charge of Air Force operations.
“FIU president says university damage ‘limited’ ” via The News Service of Florida – Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg said the Miami-Dade County school made it through Hurricane Irma with limited damage, though classes remain closed until further notice. “Even though this has been an exhausting couple of days, and even though the storm we have endured is one of the worst that Florida has experienced, you all must understand that we have survived one of Florida’s most devastating storms with limited damages,” Rosenberg said in an email addressed to the “FIU family” and released by the university. “Compared to nearby communities and neighborhoods throughout the state, we are relieved and in many ways enabled to help as much as possible.” The email said almost 5,000 cars were parked in FIU garages for safekeeping during the storm and that they “appear to be intact.”
“How did Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach weather Hurricane Irma?” via Darrell Hofheinz of the Palm Beach Daily News – A neighbor who lives on the street just north of Mar-a-Lago, said he spoke with a maintenance worker at the club and there were minor interior roof leaks from the storm, but no major damage. George Buff IV, a Mar-a-Lago member, said the worker reported three trees down and that the back parking lot at the club had experienced major flooding. A drive by the property showed that the landscaping had thinned along the south wall, and the ballroom windows were intact. Vegetation littered the roadway south of the club. Palm Beach officials confirmed that they had received no reports of structural damage at the landmarked mansion-turned-private club.
“On Little Gasparilla Island, Irma washed away Tampa family’s ‘pink house’ leaving barely a trace” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times – The popular vacation rental, as of today still listed on VRBO for $249 a night as a three bedroom “beach shak” with balcony sunsets, dolphin watching and a rattan couch, was farther out on the beach than any of the surrounding homes, partly thanks to beach erosion since its construction in the late ’50s. Those who’d stayed there said you could feel it sway in the wind. A photograph shows the pink house practically erased from the beach a day after Hurricane Irma passed by the Charlotte County barrier island. “Most of us on the island have been bracing for when this one would fall,” Tim Hamlin, a Wesley Chapel resident who owns a different vacation home on the island, said. “Thankfully it happened when nobody was staying there.”
– “MacDill Air Force Base reopens with little damage” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times
State offices still closed in some counties: State offices will be closed in at least 12 counties because of Hurricane Irma. Those counties are Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Jefferson, Lake, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Palm Beach, St. Johns and St. Lucie. Additional state buildings could be closed in other counties. Per the News Service of Florida.
Universities still shuttered: Eleven of the state’s 12 universities will be closed amid recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma. The only university scheduled to be open is the University of West Florida.
“Yes, you can be fired for missing work while fleeing Hurricane Irma” via Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post – The Naples Daily News ran a story about a city manager who plans to fire an employee who refused to work through the wind and rain. “When we hire you, you sign a statement saying you might be required to work through hurricane events,” Naples City Manager Bill Moss told the Post … Moss said the city is supplying both housing and child care to employees during the hurricane. “Generally speaking, we feel if we’re not here, there’s no one else to help people or get a city restored,” he said. “There’s really no safe place right now.” Terminating a city employee who shirked hurricane duties is legal in Florida, as it would be in other states. So is dismissing many workers who fail to show up for work at a private business, even if they’d hit the road to avoid floods. In the United States, there is no such thing as disaster leave. Union contracts protect some workers, and mandatory evacuation orders make it illegal for people to stay directly in a hurricane’s path, once that warning has been given.
— THE RECOVERY —
“You fled Irma. You want to drive home. Here’s the traffic you can expect.” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – If you chose to drive back home Tuesday after evacuating from Irma, you were among thousands of others who faced a frustrating and long trip. Traffic jams had already formed by midmorning and continued throughout the day in Florida and southern Georgia, as millions of evacuated residents flooded back into and through the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Many drivers confronted gridlock, lengthy delays and uncertainty in knowing where the next gas station with fuel might be. One of the worst areas: Interstate 75. Drivers coming down I-75 faced backups by Tuesday afternoon for most of the 150-mile stretch that spans from the Georgia line south to an interchange in Wildwood, where Florida’s Turnpike begins.
“EPA grants pollution waiver to Florida utilities after Irma” via The Associated Press – The Environmental Protection Agency said the so-called No Action Assurance granted through Sept. 26 came at the request of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The letter said the move will provide Florida utility generators needed flexibility to maintain and restore electricity supplies in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The EPA said the move was in the public’s interest. Florida’s Division of Emergency Management said about noon Monday that 6.52 million utility customers in the state were without power. That’s more than 65 percent of all electricity customers. The EPA’s assurance letter will allow utilities to operate outside restrictions mandated by their permits, including potentially using dirtier fuels, running for longer hours or electively bypassing pollution control equipment. Coal-fired plants can also discharge wastewater laced with levels of toxic-heavy metals at higher concentrations than what would normally be permitted.
Gov. Scott pledges aid that could help the undocumented” via Maria Perez of the Marco Eagle – After Hurricane Irma ripped up homes, damaged businesses and flooded roads throughout Southwest Florida, Gov. Scott said Mondaythat he was going to help all Floridians. And that could include undocumented immigrants. “My goal is everybody in our state, we are doing anything we can to take care of them,” said Scott when asked whether assistance would be provided to undocumented immigrants. “We are going to do anything we can to make sure people have food and water. We are going to make sure we get everybody’s electricity back on. We are going to do anything we can to help everybody in our state,” said Scott.
“Fuel flowing, power slowly returning; Gov. Scott and Tim Tebow say thanks” via Arek Sarkissian of the Tallahassee Democrat – Ports Canaveral, Everglades and Tampa Bay began accepting the ships as fuel haulers transported gasoline to stations that went dry. Gov. Scott said deliveries would continue as the 6 million people who were ordered to evacuate try to return home. “We’re doing everything we can to get those tankers to suppliers so evacuees can start getting home,” Scott said Tuesday from the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “People need power, people need fuel, people need supplies and people are working hard to do everything they can.” Scott said fuel was a top priority along with restoring power for 9 million people around the state. Roughly 30,000 utility crews had come from out of state to help in the effort. Areas hit particularly hard by the Category 4 storm included Immokalee, in eastern Collier County. “Immokalee is hurting right now, so power, power power,” he said. “We’ve got to get power back.”
“AT&T pledges $1.4M in Hurricane Irma relief” via Florida Politics – The additional money will include $1 million in matching donations to Team Rubicon — a veteran-led nonprofit disaster response group — as well as $150,000 to Telecoms Sans Frontieres, which is working to re-establish connectivity for emergency responders and communities in the Caribbean, and $250,000 to local charities in states impacted by Irma. AT&T is pledging to work with state officials to direct the $250,000 donations to the areas where they can do the most good.
“Tampa Bay Bucs donate $1 million to Red Cross’ Irma relief efforts” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “Hurricane Irma left a path of destruction throughout the entire state of Florida,” Bucs Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement. “The long recovery process is already underway and the entire Buccaneer organization stands in support of all those who have been impacted. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected as well as the countless numbers of first responders and everyone who is working so selflessly to keep our community safe.”
“Uber donating $400K toward hurricane relief” via Florida Politics – Saying it’s “hearts and minds” are with Hurricane Irma survivors, Uber said it was “donating $400,000 (worth) of rides, food, and relief to families and communities affected, as well as (to) first responders.” The San Francisco-based ride-booking company made the announcement on its blog.
“Does Publix throw away returned food and water? Maybe donate unused hurricane supplies instead” via Ernest Hooper of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s important to keep in mind that Publix and other grocers will throw away perishable items. Perhaps a better alternative would be donating water and supplies to nonprofits. “Any perishable product returns to our stores must be discarded,” said Publix media and community relations manager Brian West. “But customers may donate directly to their local food banks.” However, rumors spreading via social media that Publix stores will throw away any food items that are returned are not true. Bottled water and other non-perishable items can go back on store shelves. “When a non-perishable product is returned, our store associates assess the quality and return it to the shelf if it meets our standards,” a Publix representative said via the company’s Facebook page.
— THE PATH FORWARD —
“Rick Scott to schools: Be considerate of students serving in Guard” via Florida Politics – The governor on Tuesday reminded state colleges and universities to “do everything possible to accommodate those not able to immediately get back to school, including those serving in the Florida National Guard,” he said in a letter. “As your campuses begin to re-open, it is important that each of you are mindful of your students who continue to serve during this disaster,” he wrote. “Many of these students will not be able to immediately return to their studies because of their selfless service, and I ask that you do everything possible to accommodate those men and women who put others before themselves in times of crisis.”
“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asks Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi to visit Florida” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Ros-Lehtinen will send a letter to Speaker Ryan … Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy … Minority Leader Pelosi … Minority Whip Steny Hoyer … and the leaders of the congressional committee that controls federal spending, urging them to join their Florida colleagues to assess the damage. “As Members of the Florida Congressional delegation, we strongly encourage you to visit our state and join us in assessing the extent of the damage,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the letter. “While Floridians are coming together to begin the recovery process, we will need assistance from the federal government in the coming weeks and months to help rebuild our communities in the aftermath of this devastating storm. Florida is home to over 20 million residents, all of whom must know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have the resources necessary to assist and respond effectively.”
“Effect on tourism mixed” via Donna Goodison of the Boston Herald – Florida could recover from Hurricane Irma’s wrath in time for its busy tourism season this winter, but that’s likely not the case for harder-hit Caribbean islands including St. Martin/St. Maarten, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and Barbuda, according to travel experts’ early reads. Damage assessments still were underway … but impacts on Florida’s $100 billion tourism industry likely will be short term and not affect winter’s high-travel season that starts in mid-December. “It does look, so far, that Florida will probably recover a bit quicker than some of the worst-hit Caribbean islands, and that’s because, from what we can tell, there’s less damage, and generally the infrastructure and government support is a little bit better,” said Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of SmarterTravel.com.
– “Florida Keys closed indefinitely to tourists” via Robert Silk of Travel Weekly
– “Hurricane Irma not expected to deter snowbirds from Florida” via CTV News
“Moody’s: Florida transportation authorities should bounce back quickly from Irma” via Florida Politics – The credit rating group said even though many are still closed, the state’s airports, seaports and toll roads will “generally be able to sustain their long-term credit quality because of three important factors: strong liquidity, resilient revenue streams, and experience with previous storms that has improved readiness.” Moody’s cited large cash reserves held by tolling authorities, airports and seaports in the memo, which it says will help them wade through a short-term drop in revenue over the coming weeks. Of the 20 transportation groups to issue bonds, state toll roads will fare the best in their recovery, with Moody’s pointing to cash reserves among the five state-owned toll roads totaling 2,200 days of operating expenses. The Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority is in even better shape, with nearly 4,000 days’ worth of cash on hand, while the Canaveral Port Authority has the lowest reserves, clocking in at still respectable 185 days.
“Worst case scenario didn’t happen; insurance sector soars” via The Associated Press – Shares in insurance companies that had been hammered in the days leading up to the storm are surging Monday, the first day of trading since the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm. Particularly strong are companies with a strong presence in Florida, like Federated National Holding, HCI and Heritage Insurance. Citi analyst James Naklicki is estimating U.S. insured loses to be about $20 billion, with totals reaching up to $50 billion. A direct hit to Miami, he says, could have meant up to $150 billion in costs. Larger insurers like Travelers, Allstate and Progressive are also rising.
— REMNANTS —
“Rum, guns and tea: unfazed Floridians don’t let Irma dampen spirits” via Joseph Ax of Reuters – As veterans of at least half a dozen hurricanes, Steve and Sarah Griffin knew exactly how to cope when Irma bore down on their Clearwater, Florida, home: host an impromptu party for friends who had evacuated their own houses. “You’ve just got to have plenty of beer, Captain Morgan, vodka, (and) you’ll get through,” Sarah Griffin, 52, a native Floridian like her husband, said of the Saturday night party, which also included a game of hurricane trivia. But even as television meteorologists delivered apocalyptic warnings, storm-savvy Floridians dealt with the impending Irma in their own way. Some residents used gallows humor to defuse anxiety. A number of people wrote messages on the plywood they used to board up their windows, including one with an arrow that read: “Hey Irma – North Korea is that way.”
“Floridians say online retailers let them down ahead of Irma” via Adriana Gomez Licon of the Associated Press – Maya Kogul was in California when Hurricane Irma began twirling toward Florida. She knew stores would run out of key supplies before she got back to her downtown Miami home earlier this week, so she placed an order for three cases of water through a Nestle water delivery company. She waited and waited, but the order didn’t come. More than 50 Floridians told The Associated Press that they did not receive flashlights, battery-operated radios, boxed milk, water bottles and first-aid kits after placing orders on Amazon.com and Nestle’s ReadyRefresh. Amazon spokeswoman Amanda Ip said that deliveries were experiencing delays because of the weather conditions. ReadyRefresh posted an apology Friday on Twitter for service disruptions and delivery delays.
“In Irma versus Dinosaur World, Plant City’s T-Rex emerges unscathed” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times – The 40-foot-tall, fiberglass beast has towered over Interstate 4 since 1998, beckoning passersby to visit Dinosaur World — an outdoor theme park home to 150 life-sized dinosaur sculptures. The park’s owners, Marlene and Joe Svensson, lost power about 8 p.m. Sunday at their home off Forbes Road in Plant City, and when there was finally enough daylight to begin assessing the storm’s damage, they discovered a massive oak tree had fallen across Harvey Tew Road right in front of the park’s main entrance gate. By the time the tree was removed and the couple could enter it was about 11 a.m. and they had to move quickly if they wanted to reopen Tuesday … the couple insisted every dinosaur remained intact and secured in their concrete and wire bases, though beneath a thick blanket of foliage and debris. “All good news, they all survived. We’re very happy,” Marlene Svensson said.
“Swept away by TV coverage of Hurricane Irma” via Dahleen Glanton of the Chicago Tribune –Television anchors kept warning us that much of Florida could be washed away by gigantic surges of ocean water in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The pictures coming out of Cuba and the Caribbean already had proved how devastating this storm could be. I was terrified for everyone in its path. But that wasn’t the only reason I, and so many others, sat glued to the TV all day. Cable news television gave us a virtual front row seat to the developing storm, providing a riveting performance that was full of adventure, suspense and drama. The show presented on the TV news was designed to be entertaining. It was meant to keep us captivated for hours, mesmerized by the “heroic” sacrifices of journalists who risked their lives to show us what it is like to stand outside in the midst of a deadly storm. No one was excited about the possibility of people losing their homes and businesses, perhaps even lives, but the prospect of seeing a hurricane dance up close was too tempting to turn down.
“For Ted Deutch, ‘safe room’ become his office” via David Cohen of POLITICO – Throughout the day Sunday, the Democratic congressman was forced to shelter from the ferocious effects of Hurricane Irma, even as he attempted to keep atop of the situation, or, as he put it, “trying to stay abreast while running back and forth to the safe room during tornado warnings.” Deutch, who has represented the 21st District since 2010, said he understood that the Gulf Coast of the state was facing greater peril, but he still needed to make sure that those on the East Coast of Florida were eligible for the help they needed. In the face of a natural disaster, it can mean a lot where the boundaries for certain types of federal assistance are drawn. “We’ve got to be a position to start rebuilding when it’s clear,” he said. Deutch said he and his family — his wife, his in-laws and his dog — had remained safe and gotten a bit more accustomed to the emergency drill as the day went along. That safe room was actually a walk-in closet in his in-laws’ residence in Boca Raton, on Florida’s Southeast side. The tornado warnings had started at 4 a.m. and continued as Irma continued to climb Florida, bringing formidable winds, waves and torrential rain, as well as tornadoes spun off from the storm.
“Kim Daniels claims Irma was ‘revealed to prophets first’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat, may have had the most idiosyncratic reaction of any officeholder to Hurricane Irma. She claimed that God revealed it to prophets, an unusual reaction by a state lawmaker to a natural disaster that the state and the nation will take years to recover from. Daniels posted to Facebook that “Chuck Pierce prophesied that a surge was coming to Fla in July (Open Heaven Conference in Tallahassee) He saw something coming up the middle of Fla and put a map of it on the screen. Nothing happens except God reveal it to prophets first.” Indeed.
“Florida alligators may be on the loose after hurricane Irma” via Julia Glum of Newsweek – The Florida Department of Health tweeted Monday morning that residents needed to “be alert to wildlife” because “snakes, alligators, etc. may have been displaced as a result of strong winds or rain.” An estimated 1.3 million gators live in the Sunshine State, parts of which saw 130 mph winds and up to 20 inches of rain over the weekend. Irma had weakened to a tropical storm by Monday, but the risk of flooding—and migrating alligators—remained. That’s because alligators often deal with extreme weather by hiding out in safe spaces like driveways and porches, as the Texas Gator Squad explained last month, ahead of Hurricane Harvey. A few people in Florida spotted reptiles on the loose in Irma’s wake. In Melbourne, Florida, a fire department employee took a video of an alligator walking near a bus stop … The Miami Herald, meanwhile, shared a video from a local reader showing an alligator sitting poolside during the storm.
“Florida cop encounters chainsaw-wielding nun tackling Hurricane Irma debris” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel – it’s not every day you happen across a chainsaw-wielding nun. An off-duty police officer in Miami did just that this week — but no arrest was needed, and the incident didn’t turn into the latest #FloridaWoman fodder. Sister Margaret Ann, of Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll High School in southwest Miami-Dade County, was just helping clean up debris after Hurricane Irma knocked a tree down in the neighborhood. When it comes to post-Hurricane Irma cleanup, it’s all hands on deck. Click on the image below to watch video of the chainsaw wielding nun.
— HURR-OPINIONS —
“Irma, Jose: Welcome to Florida – land of the perpetual disaster” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – As I scurry to Google to understand what that means and how many more sandbags it will require, it dawns on me that Floridians are forced to familiarize themselves with all sorts of nutty-scary phrases. Anti-cyclonic loop. Radioactive sinkhole. Mosquito-borne illness. We’re not living in paradise. We’re living in a modern incarnation of the book of Exodus. We have hurricanes and tornadoes. Fires and floods. Sinkholes, sharks, Zika and even deadly amoeba. We face more plagues than the Egyptians ever did. You don’t need a retirement portfolio to move to Florida. You need a flak jacket and a 30-day supply of MRE’s. There is no doubt that Floridians are resilient. But we’re also kind of nuts.
“The folly of paying Americans to live in harm’s way” via the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s hit on Texas, and with Hurricane Irma’s violent trek across Florida, let’s all acknowledge one reason for the vulnerability of Americans who live in low-lying coastal regions of the Sunbelt: The federal government has been paying people to locate there. Not explicitly, of course. But an abundance of inexpensive housing is a big attraction. And a big factor in the low cost of housing in the Houston area is that developers are free to build almost anywhere, including marshy, low-lying areas where land is cheap. The chance of being swamped deters some people, but the government offers flood insurance to pay for repairing and rebuilding. The owners of a Houston home that flooded 16 times in 18 years got more than $800,000 in payments — for a house worth just $115,000. So why is the public subsidizing the risk in these places? Because the people living there, the politicians they elect, the businesses they patronize and various interest groups (such as homebuilders and the real estate industry) have strong stakes in preserving this program. They’ve been able to prevent the sort of reforms needed to make it actuarially sounder and closer to self-sustaining.
“Vigilance is key in recovering from Irma” via the Tampa Bay Times – There’s no doubt it could have been worse. A storm that spent most of its life as a record-setting Category 5 hurricane first made landfall in Florida early Sunday as a Category 4 near Cudjoe Key. The storm later made landfall near Marco Island, at Category 3 strength, before moving up the southwest coast and weakening to a Category 2 before jogging east toward Lakeland, brushing Tampa Bay as a Category 1. The bay area was spared the brunt of the storm as Irma moved quickly north, weakening along the way. But it cut a devastating swath across the lower half of the state and impacted millions even beyond its expansive wind cone … It was a harrowing weekend and this week will be tough. The rebuilding process will take time, money and a sense of urgency at all levels of government. But the storm is behind us, and it’s time to pick up the pieces and to make the recovery as fast and smooth as possible.
— THE CAMPAIGN NEVER STOPS —
“RNC hires Florida director for midterm elections” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Gearing up for “the most expansive midterm field program in the party’s history,” the Republican National Committee has hired state directors in 17 states, including Florida. The Florida director will be Andrew Brey, who worked on Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s 2016 campaign and was a part of Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida. “Andrew’s previous Florida experience includes time with the Republican Party of Florida as a field director for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaign as well as Governor Rick Scott’s re-election. His prior experience includes municipal, state senate, gubernatorial, and congressional campaigns in Nebraska and North Carolina,” reads a release.
“Ashley Moody dominates fundraising in AG Race” via The News Service of Florida – Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody last month continued to lead fundraising for the 2018 attorney general’s race. Moody raised $148,260 for her campaign account and had about $733,000 in cash on hand as of Aug. 31, according to a newly filed finance report. Her GOP primary opponent, state Rep. Jay Fant raised $15,635 during the month and had nearly $156,000 on hand. Democrat Ryan Torrens, a Hillsborough County attorney, raised $5,118 and had about $13,400 on hand, the reports show.
“Disney pours more money into gambling initiative” via The News Service of Florida – Disney Worldwide Services plowed another $600,000 in August into a ballot initiative that could make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, according to a newly filed campaign-finance report. As of Aug. 31, Disney had contributed $1.75 million of the $1.98 million raised by a political committee known as Voters In Charge, which is leading efforts to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. The initiative would change the state Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state. It would require voter approval of casino-style games in the future. The political committee needs to submit a total of 766,200 petition signatures to get on the ballot. As of Monday morning, it had submitted 216,469 signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website. The committee had spent $1.47 million as of Aug. 31, with most of the money going to petition gathering and verification.
— ALOE —
“Apple unveils new products, including the $1,000 iPhone” via Hayley Tsukayama of The Washington Post – The crowd at Apple’s new “spaceship” headquarters saw new smartphones — including a premium version priced at $999 — as the company commemorated its 10th anniversary of the iPhone. After the iPhone 8 presentation, Tim Cook retook the stage to offer, in Steve Jobs‘s iconic words, “one more thing” — the iPhone X. The phone, he said, was the “biggest leap since the original iPhone.” (The company is pronouncing it the iPhone ten). A huge leak about Apple’s ‘iPhone X’ comes days before its big debut. The iPhone X will start at $999 — considerably more than the base price of previous models. It will be available for pre-order on Oct. 27 and ship Nov. 3. The iPhone X has an advanced array of cameras for facial recognition, which allows the phone to become unlocked just by looking at it. The cameras can learn a user’s face and note gradual changes. And it can be used at night or day. But Apple promised that it would not collect the data on all of those faces. The information would only be kept on the smartphone, not sent to Apple servers. The facial recognition technology has other applications as well. Apple introduced “animoji” — animated emoji that imitates your facial movements and lets you record animated messages through texts.
“Google plots to conquer self-driving cars—by making peace with Detroit” via Tim Higgins of the Wall Street Journal – The tech and auto industries have been at loggerheads for years. General Motors Co. was so annoyed with Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., it once tossed one of its software engineers off a test track for plowing through cones. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s NV’s Dodge ran a television ad that took a thinly veiled shot at the tech giant. More than two years of on-and-off talks with Ford were fruitless. The mutual mistrust has fostered a confusing array of alliances between automakers, ride-hailing companies, rental-car concerns and tech giants. Silicon Valley looked down its nose at the mundane work of manufacturing. Detroit feared being turned into a commodity producer making a shell for others to fill, like cellphone handset makers. Misunderstandings between Detroit and Silicon Valley were commonplace after Google began teasing details about its car efforts in 2010. Automotive executives were dismissive of the engineers Google recruited from self-driving car competitions held by the Department of Defense. Google’s engineers, meanwhile, turned their noses up at Detroit in their pursuit to quickly put the technology on the road.
Happy birthday to two great women, Rosemay O’Hara, the editor of the editorial page at the Sun-Sentinel, and Melissa Joiner Ramba of the Florida Retail Federation.