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Blaming Climate Change, Ex-Emergency Management Chief Warns Floridians of More Intense Storms Ahead

| December 15, 2017

Hurricane Irma damage at Surfside Estates in beverly Beach, which has twice in two years been ravaged by hurricane wind and flooding damage. Florida's top emergency management officials says to expect more of the same. (© FlaglerLive)

Hurricane Irma damage at Surfside Estates in Beverly Beach, which has twice in two years been ravaged by hurricane wind and flooding damage. The emergency management chief who oversaw Florida’s quartet of hurricanes in the previous decade says to expect more of the same in coming years. (© FlaglerLive)

Many Hurricane Irma evacuees say they’re apprehensive of packing up and leaving their homes again because forecast models failed to match the final track of the September storm.

That is worrisome for Craig Fugate, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, including during the state’s devastating 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons.

Fugate said Thursday that Floridians must brace for storms that will be stronger, have longer periods at top speeds and bring more rain than in the past because of the changing climate.

Fugate, who addressed reporters during a conference call hosted by the National Hurricane Survival Initiative about a new website and year-round awareness campaign titled “Get Ready, Florida!,” said people are expecting a level of forecasting that “isn’t there yet.”

Instead, people should continue to anticipate some uncertainty in forecasting, he said.

“If we knew exactly where it was going to hit it would be a lot easier, but it isn’t,” Fugate said. “As we saw with Irma, a slight jog east or west of that track, we’d have been in a lot different impact. In many ways, with the exception for what happened in extreme Southwest Florida and the Florida Keys, we basically did a lot better than what we thought was going to happen.”

The conference call highlighted the need for people in Florida to plan year-round for the six-month hurricane season and for people who live outside flood zones to consider flood insurance.

A survey by the initiative — whose members include the non-profit FAIR Foundation, Ocala-based Custom Windows Systems, the Florida Home-Improvement Association, Security First Insurance, the Ygrene Energy Fund, the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University and the Salvation Army — found one in four Floridians are now less trusting of hurricane forecasts because of Irma.

The survey also found that many Floridians entered the 2017 storm season without such things as adequate window protection, backup batteries and water supplies or failed to have evacuation plans.

“If you had a storm like Harvey sit over Central Florida can you imagine what 50 inches of rain would do to the Orlando area?”

The state Division of Emergency Management estimates 6.5 million people took to the road in attempts to avoid the powerful and deadly storm that made landfall Sept. 10 outside Key West and in Collier County before sweeping up the state. At last count, 84 deaths have been attributed to the storm.

A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll in mid-October found that only 57 percent of Floridians said they would follow an evacuation order in the face of a hurricane similar in strength to Irma because the drifting nature of the storm’s track initially had an East Coast landing.

Fugate said changes in the earth’s climate may not be increasing the number of storms, but their features are getting more intense — highlighted by the record rainfalls from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma holding maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour for more than 24 hours.

“If you look at Harvey’s rainfall, there are a lot of people now coming back and starting to look at how climate is affecting rainfall events and the enhancement on that,” he said. “If you had a storm like Harvey sit over Central Florida can you imagine what 50 inches of rain would do to the Orlando area? And we’re seeing this across, not just in our Atlantic basin, but across the world. We’re seeing intensifications of rainfall events and intensifications of drought events.”

Fugate noted that the credit-rating agency Moody’s Investor Services Inc. last month announced that climate change is forecast to heighten exposure to economic loss, which will place short- and long-term credit pressure on state and local governments.

“This will be a growing negative credit factor for issuers without sufficient adaptation and mitigation strategies,” Moody’s said in a release.

Moody’s noted that after Hurricane Katrina, besides widespread infrastructure damage, revenue declined significantly for New Orleans because a large percentage of the city’s population left permanently.

Erik Salna, associate director and meteorologist at Florida International University’s hurricane research center, said “more and more” research supports that climate change is causing increasingly intense hurricane rainfall.

“It is a situation, moving forward for Florida, we being the hurricane capital of the country, not only storms that could come each and every year, but more storms and more damaging storms,” Salna said.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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27 Responses for “Blaming Climate Change, Ex-Emergency Management Chief Warns Floridians of More Intense Storms Ahead”

  1. Edith Campins says:

    But Trump said Climate change was just a Chinese hoax.

  2. John dolan says:

    Strong hurricane force winds are no match for mobile homes. They should be the last resort for housing especially in Florida.

  3. Mark says:

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Are we talking “man made” climate change or cyclic climate change? Maybe we should move further away from the sun and cool this place down. “Uncertantity in forecasting”? Since when has any weather person (is person okay to use?) been accurate? If they were paid by accuracy they would be poor. It is so good to hear it’s not Bush’s fault anymore.

  4. RobJr says:

    The party line was and maybe still is ” I am not a scientist” so……

  5. Anonymous says:

    And to think, the BOCC and Craig Coffey let two outstanding emergency management men and woman go to another location for employment. Pasco County got our good people and as a result will be in better shape than we will next hurricane season. Craig Coffey needs to be fired and the board of county commissioners need to be replaced for not being in tune and in charge as to what is going on and letting Craig Coffey run this county. We can only hope and pray next hurricane season that this county can take care of our needs and safety….it isn’t looking good.

  6. OEF/OIF Vet says:

    Climate change is a hoax. Hundreds of reputable scientists have stated as much. But it’s easy to blame the boogy man; especially when that boogy man has an endless supply of funds for you.
    P.S. If climate change is real; and ice caps are melting and the oceans are going to overrun our beaches; then why do Obama and the other elite liberals keep purchasing beach-front properties for millions of dollars? Seems to me the land they would crave would be in the mid-west somewhere. Hmmm…

  7. gmath55 says:

    Why would a developer or builder build mobile homes on beach side? Why would anybody live in a mobile home on beach side? Just to be close to the ocean? NO THANKS! I did live in an apartment in Ormond By The Sea for one year but when the insurance company doubled my rate I got out ASAP!

  8. Sherry says:

    Dear ” Brain Trust” Deniers. . . let’s take a look as some actual scientific FACTS shall we:

    You are quite welcome.
    Happy Holidays!

  9. Really says:

    Its not nice to fool with Mother Nature

  10. JT says:

    It’s good to know that Flagler County has protections in place for its shorelines (where possible). Plat addendums are in place to assure dune infrastructure is in place to protect residents and their property.

    Good job FC! Thank you for your visionary actions to protect your residents.

  11. Mothersworry says:

    JT, care to come to south Flagler and show me where the dune infrastructure that is supposed to protect is? The dunes were pounded during Matthew and since then wasn’t much done other than some sand dumped over them that washed out with Irma there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of protection left.

  12. bob says:

    Climate Change is just like everything else $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  13. JT says:

    Mother, thoughts are with you and wish all the best given new shoreline challenges. FC and supporting agencies are doing their best to help. It is a tough situation. (And expensive).
    We are thankful for that.

    To your point, it seems each year brings a new ‘problems. After decades of ‘no hurricanes’ , our County now has to be well versed in dealing with this problem.

  14. capt says:

    Craig Coffey has yet to keep his promise to the residents of the coastal communities to rebuild the dunes and to work to reduce the impact of flooding in the neighborhoods. I guess it will take a complete annihilation of all homes to get the county to do anything. Time is again running out Coffey.

  15. Edith Campins says:

    Mr. Vet, you must have missed the official government report issued by this administration, which states that man made climate change is real. Bet you haven’t read it.

  16. palmcoaster says:

    Oh yeah Trumpeteer forecast non existent climate change and JT were are the dunes protection….?

  17. Sherry says:

    Thanks YankeeExPat. . . hopefully this factual information from the Department of Defense will be taken seriously by the readers here, and the public in general. How tragic for us that the person in the white house, and many in Congress, choose to completely disregard such critical information and advice.

  18. Dave says:

    Bye Bye A1A in Flagler Beach as we know it

  19. Anonymous says:

    That’s because you have county commissioners who let Craig Coffey run around playing big shot and calling the shots. The Commissioners should wake up and start acting responsible and do the jobs we’ve elected them to do. Craig Coffey needs to go!!

  20. mark101 says:

    Most of use will be dead before Fla is covered with water or wiped clean by storms. IF your worried, you had better move now while the market is good,. Beach erosion will occur with or without human intervention, what has been impacted a the upper limits of our planet will continue for years. As the population of this planet increases, so will the water levels. Flagler County doesn’t have the funds to make anything right. Its little band-aids to appease the complainers. People can deny the water raising on our coast all they want, but its occurring.

  21. The Truth says:

    Does anyone ever look up in the sky and see all those Chem Trails. Look it up folks. It’s your government altering our weather. It is not climate change. The news media and your government being DISHONEST again.

  22. The Truth says:

    Check this out folks….you be the decision makers and what are you going to do about it?

  23. Rick Kang says:

    China and India are NOT friends of the earth! Thanks to their uncontrolled economic expansion the earth is becoming WARMER!

  24. Paul says:

    To YankeeExPat, thanks for the link. For the Reps who can’t read anything longer than a bumper sticker, here’s a quote from the report. “The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk. We are already observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors
    to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle
    East, Africa, Asia, and South America.”

  25. Sherry says:

    Please. . . all “Conspiracy Theorists” . . . please go try and sell your insanity some place else:

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