Florida is done when the next “big one” hits.
I was in the heart of Irene. The storm came over Eleuthera, where I am moving, as a Category 3, nearly a Category 4. We were in the eye of the storm as it passed over. We also had four solid hours of 115 mph wind.
However, while the damage in some areas was extensive, this island with a small population (about 10,000) and long area from north to south (130 miles) held up relatively well.
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I was just north of a town called Gregory Town, famous for its surfing beaches, pineapple festival and where musician Lenny Kravitz has his recording studio. Running water stayed on for the most part where I was after the storm. Power was lost for about five or six days but began to return Monday and Tuesday.
It is true that harder-hit areas of Eleuthera will take weeks for water and power to return, but I was impressed with how this island — and the Bahamas as a whole — held up. Even though the storm hit the southern islands (known as the "family islands" where many homes and buildings are older) there were no deaths in the Bahamas. Many of the islands began to regain power and water within a week of the storm.
The storm weakened to a Category 1 by the time it hit the Carolinas.
However, despite the storm being more benign, there were numerous floods, fallen trees and power outages along the East Coast. I'm not a meteorologist but I can tell you from experiencing the storm at its brunt that there is no way there should have been 40 deaths or flooding as extensive as it was in the Northeast.
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I think it signifies the deterioration of American infrastructure. There aren't enough dams and there hasn't been enough preparation for major disasters. Resources have been frittered away on government healthcare, pensions for employees and wars.
In addition, this hurricane just missed the Florida coast. However, the next "big one" that hits Florida will probably bankrupt the state.
After Hurricane Katrina, insurance in coastal areas in hurricane zones nearly doubled. Therefore, the government in Florida now insures many properties at below-market rates.
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor in 2007, “its state-backed insurer has become the largest property insurer in the state by keeping rates below market. It's expanding into commercial properties and rolling back planned rate hikes. Meanwhile, lawmakers significantly raised the limit on claims to the state catastrophe fund – which insures insurers – to $30 billion. Should a 'big one' hit, the state would be in financial trouble.”
Therefore, the next “big one” that hits Florida won't just be a disaster in human terms, but also a tragedy for the state government, which is already stretched financially.
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