TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Veterans of Florida’s historic hurricane seasons say Gov. Rick Scott did well handling the state’s first hurricane landfall in 11 years, but familiar problems with communications and coordinating resources resurfaced.
Hurricane Hermine made landfall Sept. 2 in Florida’s Big Bend with 80-mph winds. Coastal communities were forced to evacuate, and two deaths have been attributed to the storm. Some areas went without power for a week.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports (http://on.tdo.com/2cHoL2P ) the state’s capital city and Leon County spent over $10.3 million responding to Hermine. Over $4.6 million was spent by the city on utilities, and nearly $3 million was spent on debris removal.
The local governments expect a federal disaster declaration, said Deputy County Administrator Alan Rosenzweig.
Former Pensacola City Councilman Jack Nobles, who lost power for two weeks after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, told the newspaper (http://on.tdo.com/2c7QyYy ) he thought it was unusual to see Scott taking an active role in disaster management in the city of Tallahassee.
“I believe in local authority,” he said, adding that Pensacola had a similar form of government to Tallahassee.
Scott should have coordinated communications through the mayor and city commission, “but direct involvement? I’m not sure he should be doing that. You can assist, but the local folks know their community and citizenry better than the governor does,” Nobles said.
Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, whose Cape Coral home was seriously damaged by Hurricane Charley in 2004, praised Scott and City Commissioner Scott Maddox for “communicating with citizens and staying focused on the task at hand.”
Kottkamp said open discussions about improving storm response should wait until the cleanup is complete.
“The discussion cannot be about giving credit or blame to anyone — just making sure the citizens of the community get the best possible services from government,” he said.
Randy Ball, who served as public safety coordinator for governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, said it’s normal for a community to lose power when trees aren’t pruned regularly.
Complacency and budget cuts could have impacted state and local tree-trimming efforts, he said.
“You can’t blame the city and state governments for not doing more to prune trees and such,” Ball said. “The idea of a massive statewide tree trimming operation is optimistic.”
Manny Soto, emergency manager for the city of Orlando, said the power outages and school closures in Tallahassee and Leon County were similar to what central Florida experienced with three hurricanes in 2004.
“One thing we didn’t have in 2004 and which was a significant force multiplier is the utilization of social media to keep citizens, agencies and businesses informed,” he said. “It is a great tool for local government to push out information on social media. We used it after the Pulse shooting.”
But social media also provides a place to vent, and state and local governments should focus on collaboration instead of disparity, Soto said.
“When the sun is out is the time to figure out who brings what to the table, not when clouds are still overhead,” he said.
The collection of yard waste, debris and other materials left by Hermine across Leon County and the city of Tallahassee will begin Monday. Items eligible for pick-up include tree branches, building materials, appliances, household hazardous waste and bulky items.
The Democrat reports (http://on.tdo.com/2cvOqMG ) that city, county and state officials expect that all residents in the area will receive the collection service within two weeks.
Information from: Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, http://www.tdo.com