EDITORIAL: The growing frequency of monster storms threatens our Gulf communities
Advocate, The (Baton Rouge, LA)
Oct. 2—The good people of Florida were suffering, and Hurricane Ian wasn't even through with the southeastern states of the Atlantic coast as it trashed its way through central Florida back into the ocean.
We know their pain. In fact, just about everyone who lives anywhere on the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico knows what it feels like.
From Houston with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 to Ian today, six major storms have hit the coast in five years. Those included Hurricane Laura in 2020 and Hurricane Ida last year, both Category 4 monsters that ravaged Louisiana.
But Florida and its neighbors had not escaped, with Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Irma having hit the Sunshine State.
It may be in sunshine today, but the rays look upon devastation inflicted by Ian, nearly a Category 5 storm when it made landfall near Fort Myers.
The central part of the state was savaged. One would have to go back as far as Hurricane Andrew in 1992 to equal it, when the storm passed over Florida to end up in Louisiana after its passage through the Gulf of Mexico.
Millions of people were without power in Florida, with Gov. Ron DeSantis saying whole counties were off the electricity grid. Eyewitnesses told of people trying to flee houses floating through the storm surge. Heroic doctors and nurses tended to patients as hospital roofs gave way and halls were flooded with rainwater.
Alan Harris, emergency manager for Seminole County, with about 470,000 people northeast of Orlando, told The Wall Street Journal that "unprecedented, historic flooding" began there about 3:15 a.m. Thursday. Serious flooding was occurring "just about anywhere in the county," he said.
Rescue workers, including a large contingent of National Guard units from Louisiana and other neighboring states, were tending to rescue and feeding of the huge numbers of families affected.
"We're going to do our best to build Florida back as quickly as possible," President Joe Biden said at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington. "However long it takes, we're going to be there."
We cannot forbear from noting that the president's good intentions notwithstanding, prompt action in Congress on a rescue fund is no guarantee that the vast costs of rebuilding and recovery will be accomplished soon.
With Hurricane Laura aid delayed in an election year, the southwestern part of Louisiana is still nowhere near complete recovery after two years.
As the scale of this latest disaster was coming into focus, Gov. John Bel Edwards was in London, earnestly meeting with the global reinsurance companies that back up the insurers that in turn cover homes and businesses across the Gulf Coast. With insurance companies folding and fleeing left and right, officials say that reinsurance is becoming more difficult to buy. That threatens the future of millions of families, not just in Louisiana, who call the region home.
If insurance is unaffordable, the financial impact of storms will not be limited to those directly in nature's path. A lot is riding on dealing with this problem.
And we cannot help but wonder how much a warming Gulf of Mexico with rising sea levels will contribute to yet more high-powered hurricanes.
That the warm waters of the Gulf can turbocharge so many storms in five years is a grave threat to the way of life of people from Texas to Florida.
(c)2022 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
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