|What are some of the challenges that rural communities like those in Florida’s Big Bend around the area where Hurricane Idalia made landfall will face over the coming days/weeks/months? |
This was both a water and wind event! There was catastrophic flooding and storm surge, but it also brought monstrous winds that the area hasn’t seen before. People are going to be without power for days, if not for weeks. Access will be very limited given the area’s few roadways. Houses are not built with the latest standards like South Florida, so that will be a huge problem.
This is an area with pine farms, timber industry. This is an area with fishing being one of the top occupations. Fewer tourists and very rural areas. We saw what Michael had done to our pine farms! Winds cut the pines like you would cut a toothpick into half. Flooding and storm surge destroyed the local fishing industry. This will be the same. These working groups will be impacted disproportionately, and it will take years for them to get back to where they were.
Idalia is the 8th major hurricane to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast since 2017. Have you seen improved hurricane readiness in the area over the past several years?
We are in a region with limited infrastructure and resources compared to its urban counterparts in South Florida. There is a reason this area is called the Forgotten Coast. People living in this region didn’t have a major hurricane for decades until Hurricane Michael. It was the first one in many years in the Panama City/Mexico Beach area.
Idalia will be similar; it is the first one that will have made a landfall in the Apalachicola Bay. A very rural county with limited roadways and other infrastructure such as power lines, very different socioeconomically and infrastructure-wise than South Florida. The region has started to get state and federal support to improve hurricane planning after Michael, but we are still far from executing them. And now this monster hurricane. More support is needed, and it should be provided very fast.