If a hurricane like Harvey landed in Southeast Florida, hammering one of the most densely developed coastlines in all of the U.S. with torrential rain for days, what would it look like?
Widespread flooding, no doubt. Harvey may eventually be classified as a rare thousand-year storm. But exactly how much flooding would result, until now, has largely been a probability analysis based on statistics. Federal Emergency Management Administration maps look at history and stream flows, but not whether a wetland has been paved over by a parking lot, or a new electric pump replaced an old gravity gate on a canal to flush flood water.
“In a lot of places where we only have 40 or 50 years of records, you just have a probability data point,” said U.S. Geological Survey National Flood Hazard Coordinator Robert Holmes. “We really don’t know what a thousand-year rainstorm looks like because we don’t have a thousand years of data.”
As Hurricane Irma approaches Florida, Gov. Rick Scott mobilized the National Guard, suspended tolls on Florida highways and secured an emergency declaration from President Donald Trump.
At a news conference late Tuesday, Scott said that state officials were standing by to response to the hurricane as well as tackle supply shortages ahead of possible landfall. He cautioned Floridians to listen to local officials.
“If there is an evacuation order, follow it,” he said. “We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.”
– Trump declared an emergency in Florida late Tuesday. On Monday, Scott had asked the president to make the declaration. The declaration frees up federal resources and funding to provide emergency measures such as raising beach dunes, building berms along canals and planning for evacuations. Scott said that Trump “offered the full resources of the federal government as we get ready for this major storm.”
– All tolls throughout Florida were suspended at 5 p.m. Tuesday, with no time or date set for them to begin again.
As predicted, Harvey’s flooding of Houston rocketed gas prices in Florida by 33 cents a gallon. The twist — of the economic knife — is that’s where gas prices stand as Floridians fill tanks and gas cans amid Hurricane Irma’s potential threat.
Gas prices in Florida are up to an average of $2.64 per gallon of regular gas, with $2.69 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, according to AAA. The closing of East Texas refineries and shipping routes turning impassable during Harvey’s hit created a supply drop reflected in pump prices.
Stations that had gas at $2.19 per gallon along the Northwest Seventh Avenue corridor on Aug. 28 sold it at $2.59 or $.2.69 by Saturday morning — if they had it.
Hillsborough County school officials say they have little choice but to seek voter approval for a sales tax that would help rebuild a system plagued by broken air conditioners, leaking roofs and other problems caused by years of delayed maintenance.
But that won’t happen, they said, without a campaign that highlights the good they do and the importance of a strong school system.
“It’s not just a revenue-generating plan, but a will-building plan,” superintendent Jeff Eakins told the School Board, which met Tuesday for a workshop about its facilities needs.
Hillsborough’s plan for a better bottom line — cut hundreds of jobs, promote schools.