If there’s one certainty about Florida and its residents – it’s that we are resilient.
Since 1851, just six years after its inception as a state, Florida has been struck by more than 120 hurricanes with nearly 30 percent coming ashore as a Category 3 storm or stronger.
And yet despite our location in the heart of hurricane alley, Florida is still home to one of the country’s strongest economies, with residents, companies and investors continuing to pour in.
These dynamics were thrust to the forefront last month when Hurricane Ian made landfall and brought with it a devastating and tragic outcome.
While the storm’s impacts have been felt far and wide, this event has also underscored how Florida has adapted to the realities of hurricane season.
REAL ESTATE RESILIENCE
Studies show that homes built in the past few years fared better during Hurricane Ian than those which were older – highlighting the strength of Florida’s storm-hardened building code, which is considered the nation’s most rigid.
This is the reality of living on the subtropical coast, which means embracing adaptability in exchange for enjoying proximity to the water and a leisurely lifestyle. History tells us that many people are eager to assume that risk, with Florida’s population more than doubling in size over the past 40 years. To underscore this point, opportunistic buyers are even swooping in to purchase distressed properties in Southwest Florida following Hurricane Ian.
For all of Florida’s appeal, the fact remains that Ian claimed more than 100 lives and caused upwards of $75 billion in property damage. This indicates that there is more work to be done when it comes to educating the public about the inherent risks of waterfront living, and how (and when) to heed the warnings of storm experts.
One area ripe for improvement lies in the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) methods for keeping the public informed about potential impacts. The ‘cone of concern,’ which becomes omnipresent online and on social media feeds as a storm develops, has been the bellwether for gauging the probability of where a tropical system may make landfall.
While predictions have come a long way, the graphical cone does little to warn people about a storm’s likely effects at a hyper-local level. The NHC produces several graphics focused on expected impacts, but they tend to receive less attention whereas the cone of concern is ubiquitous.
The NHC’s Director recently went public acknowledging that there is confusion surrounding the purpose of the cone, and has vowed to evaluate the tool following this year’s storm season. This has highlighted the importance of clear and concise communications that can be distributed across a range of mediums.
As the media landscape shifts and methods by which consumers access information evolve, the NHC should also look to social media ads, digital ads, and streaming content services as vehicles for sharing timely updates.
RELIEF & REBUILDING
If there’s a silver lining in the wake of a hurricane, it’s that these extreme weather events tend to bring out the best in Florida. Neighbors in affected areas come together, companies and organizations join forces to undertake relief efforts, and communities tend to focus on rebuilding in a more resilient way.
The aftermath of Ian has been no different. From large corporations like Walmart to grassroots organizations like Big Dog Ranch Rescue in West Palm Beach, there have been several sources of relief. Together, Walmart, Sam’s Club and the Walmart Foundation have committed up to $6 million to support recovery and relief efforts while BDRR is collecting donations to provide pet supplies to families and shelters struggling with the aftermath of the storm.
Rebuilding efforts will also fuel the economy in the coming months, as JLL’s Senior Vice President and Florida retail lead Justin Greider explained to FOX Business. As recovery efforts take hold, the purchasing of goods and services will provide much needed economic impact across the state.
“There’s going to be a lot of money spent recovering and rebuilding from this hurricane, particularly as it worked through the entire state. Not everywhere looks like Fort Myers, but there’s certainly been damage and destruction that’s going to fuel the economy,” Greider said.
Achieving resiliency is a never-ending process. As technology improves and building and planning methods evolve, Florida will adapt and innovate – all with the goal of preserving the lifestyle that continues to attract hundreds of thousands of people each year.