A Chance at Resiliency

Under The Hood

Photo courtesy NOAA: Hurricanes Idalia and Franklin.

With one storm just passed and a bigger one looming at sea, Floridians know the potential for hurricanes to upend life. Now the Florida House has set up a special committee to deal exclusively with hurricane relief and resilience, and a local lawmaker will head up the effort.

State Rep. Michael Grant, R-Port Charlotte, will chair the Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery, which was announced on Friday. A total of 15 state representatives will serve on the panel, all from different parts of the state that have been impacted by hurricanes (which is everywhere in Florida if you go back not so far in time).

Grant knows more than anyone would want to about the impacts of hurricanes on a community. He first won election to the House back in 2004, months after Hurricane Charley savaged his Charlotte County district. And there have been plenty of other educational opportunities.

Redistricting last year changed his district to include portions of south Sarasota County, so he dealt with many of the impacts all along the coast when Hurricane Ian struck last year. More recently, Hurricane Idalia, while making landfall in the Big Bend area, delivered storm surge well south, including in the region.

The new panel is a Select Committee, meaning it will only be empowered to meet through the end of 2024. But history has shown these temporary bodies often make up with urgency whatever they lack in permanence. As it happens Grant serves this year as House Majority Leader, allowing his a greater level of influence with colleagues than most committee heads enjoy.

It's important Sarasota people make their own concerns about resiliency and relief known to Grant. While he represents part of Sarasota County, he still calls Charlotte home. He’s the only representative on the panel who represents the Sarasota-Bradenton area, whereas all (both) of Charlotte County’s representatives have a seat. But Grant has the gavel.

While Sarasota has had its share of scares and its pain with rain, one might not be blamed for feeling a little complacent here. The way Tampa Bay residents have started to take a little too much comfort in myths about burial mounds, Sarasota and Manatee residents may have too much faith in wind patterns and reef protections. But sooner or later, a powerful Gulf Coast hurricane will land in the community and do serious damage.

This committee has plenty of immediate concerns to address. Bridges took damage in Cedar Key and communities like Horseshoe Beach will feel the devastation of Idalia for decades. 

But it’s also key the resiliency side be addressed. Florida need to be prepared for increasingly intense weather, and that means bracing everywhere from Sarasota Bay, the Braden River and Tampa Bay for rising waters and powerful winds.

It’s likely nothing can be done to completely nullify the impacts of a major hurricane, but the region can be prepared to bounce back and deal with disaster. This select committee, dealing in one of the last vestiges of bipartisan governance, has the opportunity to make a difference.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ MEDIA.

Photo courtesy NOAA: Hurricanes Idalia and Franklin.

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