TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Atlantic hurricane season is now underway, and major forecasters are predicting it to be busy with above-normal activity.
Experts say it’s time to put more focus on flood mitigation projects and resilient infrastructure.
Forbes Tompkins, manager of Flood-Prepared Communities for The Pew Charitable Trusts, says some communities still are trying to rebound from recent storms, which highlights a need for more financial resources and guidance from the federal government to make long-lasting investments.
“In 2019, Hurricane Dorian skirted the Atlantic coast, and in 2018 Hurricane Michael devastated parts of the panhandle portions of the state, changing their landscape probably forever,” he points out.
State and local emergency management officials are preparing for the possibility of facing synchronized disasters, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the six-month hurricane season.
Tompkins says Florida has a track record of preparing for and prioritizing resilient infrastructure and mitigation.
“So when Hurricane Matthew went through in 2016, the state did a great job of doing a loss-avoidance study finding that it pays to prepare, that a number of disaster mitigation projects held up very well and saved the state millions of dollars and avoided damages,” he states.
Craig Fugate, a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was also in charge of Florida’s emergency response. He says it’s important to try to shield small businesses already trying to recover from the pandemic and recurring natural disasters.
“The goal that we have is, how do we build more resilient communities, so small businesses aren’t having to face the difficult decisions of how to recover from disasters but are able to do business, provide jobs, pay taxes, as part of the local economy.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 2020 could be an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 13 to 19 named systems possible. Of those, six to 10 could become hurricanes, according to NOAA’s May 21 forecast.