Hurricane Irma Autopsy

Hopefully you survived Hurricane Irma and are here to read this. Last week was absolutely one of the craziest weeks I have ever lived through.

The week started with a general state of panic around Tampa Bay and Florida as people flooded to stores and gasoline stations to prepare for Hurricane Irma. GasBuddy helped people find the scarce gas stations with fuel available. Lines for sand bags were at least 2 hours or longer.

The panic for water was also quite crazy as well because most people in Tampa Bay had drinking water available to them via tap for most of the week. The irony of people buying Aquafina which is bottled tap water and desperately searching it just shows how afraid we were.

The fear wasn’t unfounded, Tampa Bay has not been tested in a major hurricane (that’s a Category 3 or higher) in nearly a century and by a miracle we were able to escape Irma’s wrath and Naples and the Florida Keys were instead destroyed.

Plywood was completely scarce and despite lots of searching my family was never able to find any. Some people put up their fencing and cardboard around their windows in a desperate attempt to protect their homes. People started taping their windows which experts say is useless and a common misconception about hurricane survival.

Personally, I’ve never bothered to buy D batteries in the past, but they were absolutely nowhere to found last week. Portable battery chargers? All gone. Radios? None.

You would think that the local and state government would have a supply of these things people need to survive a storm and also put limits on how much of it people can buy in a crisis, but that DID NOT happen during Hurricane Irma.

Also – how does a place with tons of construction companies everywhere not have any plywood? Maybe the construction companies should have opened their supply to the people who live here.

7-11 started shipping free water to Florida after the Florida Attorney General shamed them on television for price gouging at over 20 locations. The Florida AG reported “receiving over 100 calls per-hour” about price gouging regarding 7-11 and other stores.

Airlines tried to take advantage of the situation by making airfare prices go into the thousands. By the time something was done about it, the storm was getting ready to nearly destroy the state.

If people have to evacuate, the government should provide more ways for them to get out. Why was there only one bus company providing ways out of the state in Tampa?

Not everyone can afford an airplane that is $300+ round trip or a $200+ train (that’s how much they were to get to Atlanta which was also hit by Irma).

There are solutions to all the problems that people had preparing for Irma and some of them rest in our government and companies as well as with people preparing far enough in advance.

If Hurricane Irma had hit Tampa as a Category 4 as was reported on Saturday, mass devastation would have impacted the people who were unable to find any supplies.

What can we learn from Hurricane Irma? 

  1. Be Prepared: The massive panic leading to the arrival of Hurricane Irma seemed to be partially coming from the fact that people were completely unprepared. Every year the local and state government warns people to prepare for hurricane season and they brush it off. Tampa was lucky this time, but it’s a mistake to think that a major hurricane can never hit Tampa, one almost did this weekend.
  2. Make a plan for your family: My family had no plan for the storm. Make sure your family does. Who is going to stay where? Can you come together to help lower the heavy cost of preparing for a storm or come up with an escape plan if the storm is too massive to sit through. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbors for help if you have no family around.
  3. Be Patient: Before and after Hurricane Irma, there was plenty of impatience on full display. People trying to cut lines in stores and at sand bag stations (turned around by police). Yelling and screaming isn’t going to help in a crisis, think clearly and try to find a solution.
  4. Share: The panic led to people hoarding gas, food, plywood, and water. Now those same people are at the stores trying to return all the things they bought. First of all, hurricane season does not end until November so you might want to hang onto that. I witnessed a man at Sam’s Club put 20 loaves of bread into a shopping cart when there was hardly any to begin with. It’s understandable that you may have a large family, but other people also need supplies to survive with. Stores only started rationing supplies when almost everything was gone.

Hopefully we never live through this again. The reality is that we live in Florida though and will always have the potential of tropical devastation from a hurricane and need to be more prepared as a community.

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