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As Hurricane Season Approaches, Fla. Officials Take A Look Back At Last Year's Season

Gov. Rick Scott speaking during the 32nd Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference.
Governor Rick Scott's twitter

While Hurricane Season is two weeks ago, Florida is already starting to see tropical depressions and bands of heavy rain across the state. And, looking back at the 2017 season, officials want to make sure not only are stakeholders prepared this year, but Florida’s citizens as well.

This past hurricane season was one of the most devastating ones not only in Florida, but the whole nation.

“So many people across the country were impacted by these storms,” said Ken Graham, the Director of the National Hurricane Center, at the 32nd Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference. “Look at this! 7th most active season, most hurricanes since 2005, and a record of three Category 4 landfalls.”

Year after year, Florida emergency management officials as well as other state officials warn Floridians be alert and be prepared.

While she’s a state lawmaker, Rep. Jeannette Nunez (R-Miami) says she was guilty of not doing that.

“As a native Floridian, I’m no stranger to hurricanes,” she said. “But, like many in our state, I’d grown somewhat complacent to the ever growing warnings that we receive and then certainly, seeing hurricanes sort off drift off into the coast.”

But, after the impact of Hurricanes Hermine, Maria, and Irma in the last couple years, Nunez says she saw the value of being prepared--especially last year with Irma.

“So, I myself had a tremendous learning experience sitting with so many local emergency managers, mayors, city managers, and folks on the grounds,” she added. “And, certainly, I met with individuals in Monroe County, in Lee, Collier, Flagler, St. Johns. I met with our farmers, our citrus growers. I met with our industries, our stakeholders, our electric utilities, so it really was a comprehensive approach to educate myself, but also to make sure that we had ample information and we had the tools necessary to do our job as committee members.”

As chair of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness, Nunez spoke to a group of stakeholders at the 32nd Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference.

Her committee held a series of meeting for the 2018 legislative session to assess the role the state played in making sure Floridians were prepared.

“Everything from vulnerable populations, evacuations, fuel supplies, and debris removal—you name it we talked about it,” she continued. “And, it was a miracle that we were able to get through all those topics in the time allotted.”

Among the top priorities of her committee was trying to address the failures that led to the 12 nursing home deaths due to a South Florida facility losing power during Hurricane Irma.

Nursing homes will be required to have generators and 72-hour fuel supplies onsite by July 1. It’s under a rule issued by Governor Rick Scott, later passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law.

“And, kudos to the Scott administration for taking decisive action there,” stated Nunez. “The Agency for Health Care Administration promulgated rules. There was a lot of discussion with the industry stakeholders and I think ultimately what passed and signed into law, we are better and our elderly, our vulnerable are safer for it.”

While she says there is room for improvement with regard to restoring Florida’s electric grid, Nunez says overall, the power companies did a good job. And, Governor Rick Scott agrees.

“One of the things that we tried to really well here is to get our utilities back on,. All of our utilities have worked really well together, and we got the power back on very rapidly. For anyone that didn’t have power in their first week—like my daughter—I’m sure they didn’t think it was rapidly enough, but everyone actually did work really well together.”

There’s also talk of making the process of evacuations a bit smoother, and Governor Rick Scott commissioned Florida’s transportation agency to do a study.

“I know FDOT did a study to see if there’s way we can improve the evacuation, which I think everybody worked hard to make sure that goes as smoothly as possible,” he added. But, there’s always ways to improve.”

As for Floridians, they are encouraged to have a plan and stock up on the necessary food and supplies. Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st and will end November 30th.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.