It’s been a year since Hurricane Irma roared into Florida, causing billions of dollars of damage. It wasn’t only damage that cost Floridians dearly. The reduction in visitor spending topped $1 billion. Nearly 2 million would-be visitors skipped their trips to Florida after the hurricane and spent their money elsewhere.
As Miami personal injury lawyers, we clearly recall the devastating impact of the storm. We are pleased to see our beautiful state rebounding tremendously just one year later. Here are the changes that have taken place since the storm hit.
One of the hardest hit tourist areas was the Florida Keys. According to the area’s tourism council, more than 90 percent of the lodging that was closed down due to the storm is back up and running. It is expected that close to 100 percent of resorts that were closed due to the hurricane will be reopened by the end of this year.
Some lodging owners have said that the lull in tourism after the storm allowed them to take extra time to make sure their businesses were in top condition prior to reopening.
Some hotels and resorts chose to rebuild stronger than they were pre-hurricane. Some have installed high-impact-rated materials where glass windows and sliding doors were. Others have raised air-conditioners to higher ground. Still others have taken the time to purchase and install better generators. If Hurricane Irma did anything, it was teaching business owners how to best avoid a storm’s ravages.
Some families in Florida lost their homes. Just a year later, they are finding that they can’t afford the same type of home they once lived in — housing prices have nearly doubled in some areas.
The Florida Keys Community Land Trust was started to help people who were displaced. Cottages are being built as part of a workforce housing complex. People who move in will pay rent based on their income.
In May, Sarasota County announced that it would implement a new transportation system in the event another hurricane strikes the area. The county estimates that close to 19,000 residents are without their own transportation, making evacuation difficult to impossible.
To alleviate this concern, the county will utilize school buses and vehicles from area charities to help these people get to shelters when the evacuation orders come.
In the wake of the hurricane, Florida Power & Light Co. was overwhelmed by customers checking the status of outages on the company website and app. Both have been rebuilt to better handle traffic.
The company has also implemented a plan called “Right Tree, Right Place” after discovering that 90 percent of the company’s outages were caused by tree limbs hitting power lines. The city has now increased it efforts to ensure vegetation is kept clear of power lines.
Not all is well in the Florida Keys. There are still approximately 100 families living in FEMA trailers. Some can’t afford to rebuild and can’t afford rent elsewhere.
Affordable housing in the area was destroyed, leaving people with no choice but to remain in trailers. Some say they feel as though they have been forgotten.
One thing people tend not to think about is sewage facilities during a hurricane. These plants run on power and, when that power goes down, sewage doesn’t get moved. Hurricane Irma caused breakdowns that affected in unforeseen ways. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection ended up investigating 84 facilities.
Penalties totaled close to $430,000, but plants were permitted to pay off their penalties by paying 1.5 times the normal cost of upgrades. Plants were also required to update their emergency plans and to install generators.
A strong hurricane can knock down buildings. Imagine what it can do to trees. Many citrus farmers felt the wrath of the storm as it destroyed their hard work.
Just a year later, Florida’s citrus industry is rebounding nicely. Early estimates for the 2018-2019 season have between 70 and 77 million boxes of local citrus being packed and sold.
A couple in Tennessee opened their home to hurricane evacuees when Irma hit. They hosted 26 people in total during Irma; both in their home and in the trampoline park they own.
Their experience was such a positive one that they opened their home again to people fleeing from Hurricane Florence. The couple’s neighbors also get in on the action, helping provide food and mattresses.
No person wants to be faced with a hurricane or the devastation that is left in its wake. While some people choose to ride out the storm, many evacuate as ordered, not sure what they will come home to — if they return to a home at all.
The good news is that communities are resilient and, for the most part, recover from severe storms. There is certainly still work to be done but the rest of the country can look to Florida as an example of what rebuilding can look like when people come together.
When you are injured in an accident that is caused by the negligence of another, you need a Miami personal injury lawyer. At Steinger, Greene & Feiner, we offer a no-fee consultation to new clients. That means that you have nothing to lose by speaking to a member of our team. We can fight for your rights in court, helping to ensure that you receive the justice you deserve.
Call today to schedule your case evaluation. Our offices are open 24/7, because justice never sleeps.