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Friday, October 28, 2005

Hurricane Wilma shows South Florida for what it is

Hurricane Wilma has left Southeast Florida searching for answers. How could a weakening category 2 storm (if even that) do more damage to the psyche and infrastructure of a community than two Category 4 storms did to the Panhandle. The answer lies in over development, a transient population who is not community oriented and poor political leadership. Despite the predictions of the South Florida Sun Sentinel just three weeks ago that South Florida would have no New Orleans or Southern Mississippi type disaster with a Category 5 storm, the failure of many buildings and essential services to hold up in what was essentially a strong Category 1 storm in most places is very telling about the state of preparedness on the east coast. Why did Southwest Florida avoid such disaster when they were hit directly by a Category 3 storm?

It’s been 13 years since Hurricane Andrew hit Florida City and Homestead and since Miami-Dade County despite the whining of its residents and local opinion leaders has been the county in the state least affected by Hurricanes. Miami-Dade County residents and the local TV media have been quick to exaggerate the damage done to that county by a weak Category 1 storm, Hurricane Katrina. Katrina was so weak over Dade County that very few parts of county experienced Hurricane force gusts. Most of the damaging winds associated with Katrina were north of the eye in Broward County, while Miami-Dade got the bulk of the rainfall and admittedly more damage because after all with such a weak system it is rain not winds that cause most damage. But without questions Miami’s experience with Katrina paled in comparison to the occurrences last year that the entire east coast of the state, save Miami-Dade and Broward counties experienced with Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances. The bottom line is Palm Beach, Martin, St Lucie and Indian River Counties understand Hurricanes and showed once again with their preparation and post-storm resolve that they have a sense of community and understanding of these storms.  These counties have also been more careful with development (heck, in Palm Beach they use the term “Browardization” to describe over development).

Broward County was last hit directly by a major Hurricane in 1947 by the Great Fort Lauderdale Hurricane or by Hurricane King in 1950. (Depending on what you consider a direct hit). The vast majority of Broward residents were not around the last time the county experienced prolonged Hurricane conditions of any kind which was due to Hurricane Cleo in 1964. Most Broward residents that I know believed they had experienced several Hurricanes because they were either in the periphery of Andrew,  Frances, and Jeanne or were hit by flat out weak storm with Irene and Katrina. Broward’s complacent and somewhat arrogant residents that I spoke to now all of a sudden have a new respect for Hurricanes, but should it have really come to this? Based on what happened last year in the central part of the state, Broward Commission and residents should have collectively taken measures to insure that their county which after all has close to two million people would have the infrastructure in place to respond quickly to storms. Given that Broward County is at build out and has been overdeveloped thanks largely to the Democrats who run the county, little buffer land remains for potential storm damage to not affect other neighbors and no land remains to handle storm water runoff. (That’s what the area that Weston was built used to provide).

The historical storms of 1926, 1928, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 should be considerations for policy makers that make decisions about South Florida. This is a very Hurricane prone area and chances are great that more storms that are as powerful (if not more powerful) than Wilma will hit the area in the next 10 years. Beyond policy makers the attitudes of so many South Floridians needs to change. Unlike the community minded long term residents of the coastal counties upstate, many Broward and South Palm Beach County residents don’t really have a sense of community. They tend to be more concerned about what happens in New York or Boston than about what has happened here in Florida with previous storms. I even have heard some snickers out of South Floridians saying that the rest of the state deserves the storms because they are in some way lesser people. (this is because the perception of many in South Florida which is totally incorrect is that everything north of Jupiter is populated by native Southerners: even if this was the case, it seems based on my experience that Southerners tend to band together more as a community than people from large cities in the Northeast and Midwest.) Now some of the same people say they want to leave Florida because of horrible damage inflicted by Wilma, and return to the snowstorms and blizzards in the Northeast. To these people, I say good bye and good riddance. We don’t need your types here in Florida as we try and build a sense of community and togetherness through shared sacrifice and shared interest to deal with future Hurricanes and similar challenges.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a totally disgraceful and unacalled for commentary, Kartik. You know it is FEMA, led by Karl Rove and "Brownie" along with the poor planning by the State Legislature led by a GOP super majority and Jeb Bush that brought us to this point. And another thing, the storm was stronger than you claim and cut an unexpectedly wide area of impact. Our officials here in Broward county have been very measured in promoting development and always put public and property safety above the interests of special interests unlike the bush gang who helped the oil companies record record profits at our expense this past quarter.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.