Federal sequestation could hurt Florida’s ability to recover in the aftermath of a hurricane because less money will be available to prepare the National Guard, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.
Further, he said National Guardsmen are to be furloughed and won’t receive as much training as normal because of budget cuts.
“My biggest concern is that while they say sequestration will stop during a disaster, are they going to be ready in the meantime?” he said during the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Because Florida already has a population of more than 19 million, the mix of new residents and the forecast for a busy season could make this year a nightmare for emergency managers and first responders, Scott said. Yet, he said trying to build up the state’s economy is a top priority.
“What that means is your job gets harder, because I’m going to try to get as many people to move here as possible,” he told an audience full of emergency preparedness officials.
Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said in addition to the 250,000 new residents who moved to Florida last year, many people who have lived in the state for decades “might not be as prepared as they should be. They don’t even know basic information, like whether they live in an evacuation zone.”
To emphasize flooding dangers, he said the hurricane center will experiment this year with a graphic that shows residents how much storm surge their stretch of coastline might be subjected to, if a storm threatens.
Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said last year showed that even in a relatively quiet season Florida still is a storm target, as it was hit by Tropical Storms Beryl and Debby and brushed by hurricanes Isaac and Sandy.
In light of forecasts for a busy 2013, "we’re going to have significant challenges in the year ahead,” he said.
The Governor's Hurricane Conference helps emergency managers, forecasters, first responders and government officials gear up for potential tropical trouble in the upcoming storm season.
More than 1,500 attendees from 58 Florida counties, 24 other states and six other countries - including Canada - are participating in the week-long conference, being held at the Broward Convention Center.
Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said because the state has gone for seven seasons without a hurricane strike, residents might be lulled into thinking quiet years are the norm.
But he noted the state has gone through several periods of tropical calm, only to be harshly reminded of its vulnerability with devastating storms like Hurricane Andrew in 1992 or Charley in 2004.
“Let’s hope it’s a quiet hurricane season,” he said. “But in our business, it ain’t about hope. It’s about being ready.”