After dealing with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year, Floridians are gearing up for what forecasters predict could be an above active storm season in 2018.
That destructive storm season prompted some changes in Tallahassee. The Legislature approved two rules requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have back-up power generators in the wake of a dozen seniors dying after a Broward County nursing home lost power due to Irma.
Gov. Rick Scott answered some questions from Tampa Bay Times correspondent William March about what he learned from the 2017 storm season that will help him navigate this storm season.
What changes has the state made to get ready for the 2018 hurricane season?
We've got to make sure our power grid is robust … Our power system is in pretty good shape.
(Last year) we did a good job of making sure we never ran out of gas, but we need to look at how to make sure we don't run out of propane … We will be having a hurricane conference in the next two weeks.
One of the biggest things we did (after Irma) was I (signed) the emergency order for the nursing homes, and then I got the Legislature to approve that, so now they have to all have generators and have fuel.
The big thing I've learned is you've got to get everybody to work together.
The federal government can be a partner in a lot of ways but Florida has similar agencies … We need to match up our education departments, all these different departments, so when there is a problem people know who to call so something can happen faster.
What was the most important thing you learned last year?
The biggest thing was I was really frustrated with that nursing home deal.
What advice do you have for Floridians preparing for the upcoming hurricane season?
Make sure you have your supplies, three days of water, three days of food, have your medicine, make sure you know your evacuation route … If you might have to go to a shelter, make sure you know where your shelter is.
You can get on floridadisaster.org and look at all this stuff.
One thing that we've got to make sure is that … you don't wait until a day before there's going to be a hurricane to fill up your car. We don't want to run out of fuel … That was one of my biggest concerns last time and we ended up not running out, but if people get ready earlier that would be helpful.
There were problems evacuating last year, as residents fleeing South Florida found themselves struck in traffic for hours. What is being done to make future evacuations easier?
We're spending a lot of money on our highways, we're spending over $10 billion a year. That one (Irma) was so big it impacted the whole state, that made it a little bit harder. But we're looking at how we responded … The real traffic was Wildwood north. We opened up the shoulder. I think it actually worked. We didn't run out of gas. When you know there's going to be a hurricane, do it early — don't wait until a half-hour before.