Hurricane 2018: Is Florida better prepared for storms? Not quite

The Legislature spent millions helping Florida recover from Irma. But what did lawmakers do to get the state ready for the next storm?
To stay informed this hurricane season, go to [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via The New York Times]
To stay informed this hurricane season, go to [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via The New York Times]
Published May 8, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — Hurricane Irma wreaked such havoc on the Sunshine State last year that state lawmakers vowed they would better secure Florida for future storms.

Although the Legislature failed to pass many of the bills they identified as essential in accomplishing this, it did pass measures to help the state recover.

Five Lessons from Hurricane Irma:

How to (barely) survive a week without power

Perhaps most significant was a series of spending measures that include:

• $40 million to repair damages to the state's agricultural industry.

• $90 million in federal disaster recovery grants for communities.

• $126 million in assistance for students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who were displaced by the story.

• $11.2 million in beach repairs.

"Sometimes it's just easier to throw money at a problem than it is to take a thoughtful and diligent approach to policy making," said state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who chaired a committee examining the state's hurricane response.

Get ready for the 2018 Hurricane Season:

HURRICANE GUIDE: Emergency information, tracking map and storm resources

DOWNLOAD: Get the weather app and see where storms are headed

ALERTS: Get the latest advisories from the National Weather Service

LIVE RADAR: Interactive storm track, hourly outlooks, 10-day forecasts and weather alerts

Okay, but what about next time? Did the state do anything to prepare for the future?

Lawmakers did approve $5 million for a new emergency operations center in the Florida Keys.

Most significantly, lawmakers approved two rules requiring generators in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nunez said that was the most sought-after reform, especially after a dozen seniors died in a Broward County nursing home after going without electricity after Irma.

Still, even with this rule, it's not a given that these facilities will be better prepared.

The state health care agency that oversees nursing homes and ALFs may not have time to inspect them all before storm season starts.

Even though the rules go into effect June 1, the Agency for Health Care Administration takes two years to finish inspections of all the facilities.

There are nearly 3,800 nursing homes and ALFs around the state.

Good news, though, is that local fire departments can also inspect these facilities to make sure they have generators.