Florida Hurricane Conference Presents Message of Preparedness

May 16, 2008

Preparing for hurricanes, despite two slow previous storm seasons, is key to the survival of Floridians and recovery efforts, officials said.

About 2,800 people attended the 22nd Annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference on May 14, where the main message was preparedness over complacency.

“Each and every individual citizen has a responsibility,” Gov. Charlie Crist told a crowd of emergency responders.

Craig Fugate, the state’s emergency management chief, said too often we refer to victims after hurricanes when instead we should focus on survivors.

The mentality in the past has always been, “something went wrong, blame somebody else,” Fugate said.

“It’s about being survivors, that’s my message,” Fugate said. “We can accomplish a lot if we include our neighbors, the people down the street. Write them out of your plan, and we’re going to fail. It’s just that simple.”

Fugate repeated a familiar message: it’s not a question of if another hurricane will hit, but when, and the need to be prepared to survive alone for a few days after the storm is more important than ever.

“If we can’t do that, everything else we do will fall flat on its face,” he said.

“If the great Miami hurricane hits today, it will dwarf the cost of Katrina,” Fugate added, noting estimates put such a disaster cost at more than $160 billion in losses. “The message is simple. We’ve got to be survivors.”

Earlier in the day, Crist also emphasized the need for citizens to be prepared to help themselves.

“Without our citizens, there’s just no way we can help everybody,” the governor said. “We were very fortunate last year … but we can’t count on that.”

Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November.

Later in the day, talk turned briefly to global warming and its potential effect on hurricanes, a debate that has been raging within the scientific community for several years.

Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division, warned that “just because it’s published doesn’t make it true.”

“This is a hot debate,” Goldenberg said. “I have never seen anything like it in my career.”

He said “very prominent scientists with tremendous reputations” have conflicting opinions about whether man-made global warming will have any effect on hurricane strength and frequency.

“The weather is always changing,” he said, regardless of man’s actions, and certainty about man-made climate change and its affect on hurricanes is far from, well, certain.

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