Hello everyone, I’m Stephanie Murphy and I’m proud to represent Seminole County and parts of Orange County in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Like many of you, I’m beginning to take measures to prepare for hurricane season that is already upon us.
The season officially kicked off June 1st, but we’ve already had three named storms – one of which is Tropical Storm Cristobal that is currently making landfall in Louisiana.
Although Florida was largely spared, we still felt Cristobal’s effects right here in Central Florida. On Saturday evening, a tornado with winds over 100 miles per hour touched down in parts of Downtown Orlando. It goes to show how unpredictable and devastating mother nature can be. My heart goes out to the families impacted.
Unfortunately, more than a dozen annual forecasts have predicted an above-average hurricane season for this year. Forecasts show a minimum of eight hurricanes, with four major hurricanes expected to be in Category 3, 4, or 5.
We all know hurricanes do not wait for us to prepare for their arrival. Everything that can be done, must be done ahead of time.
This season presents further unique challenges as our state continues to meet the demands of the COVID-19 global pandemic, requiring us to add another layer to our disaster preparedness.
This spring, I joined my colleagues in Congress from Florida to call for FEMA and state leaders to outline plans for hurricane preparedness and sheltering amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Given the unprecedented circumstances, I wanted to make sure my constituents had the opportunity to hear directly from experts on how federal, state and local governments are preparing.
I’ve convened today’s call with leaders from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, FEMA, NOAA, and both Seminole and Orange County Emergency Management who will share their recommendations for community members.
Following my brief remarks, they’ll each give a presentation on behalf of their agencies. At the end of the call, they will be available for questions.
Let’s not forget the destruction these storms can cause. In 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida after developing into one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in recorded history. Many in Central Florida were without power and supplies for weeks.
Throughout the state, almost 700 emergency shelters were opened and collectively housed over 190 thousand people. A record 6.5 million Floridians evacuated, making it the largest evacuation in the state's history. 84 Floridians died.
Just a few weeks later, Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, killing thousands, flattening neighborhoods and crippling the island's power grid leaving all 3.4 million residents without electricity.
With 90% of homes destroyed, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans evacuated to Central Florida. They now call our community home.
Just a year later in 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 5 storm in the panhandle. Communities ravaged by the storm still have not fully recovered. 74 people died.
Finally, let’s not forget 2004’s hurricane season – where four hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne – battered Central Florida in six weeks.
We Floridians are always calm in the face of a storm, but we also know that at the drop of a hat, a major hurricane can take a turn straight towards Florida.
We’re tough. We’ve been through many hurricane seasons before and most know the procedures on how to prepare and stay safe.
However, with an especially active season predicted, in the midst of a global pandemic, major challenges to securing supplies and standing up shelters could occur. We must think ahead.
Thank you again for joining our discussion today.