Hurricane Irma

Voters give Scott high marks for Irma, but thumbs down on evacs

Gov. Rick Scott scored high marks from Floridians for his handling of Hurricane Irma, but a new poll showed that his demands for mass evacuations may result in fewer people hitting the road the next time a storm threatens the Sunshine State’s shores.

A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll released Wednesday found Scott received “excellent” marks from 35 percent of the 625 registered Florida voters interviewed statewide in telephone surveys from Oct. 17 to Oct. 19. Another 31 percent described Scott’s storm response as “good.”

Another 25 percent graded Scott as “fair,” with 4 percent listing him actions as “poor” and 5 percent unsure.

Not surprisingly, his fellow Republicans gave Scott higher marks, with 89 percent of GOP respondents giving the governor “excellent” or “good” grades. Only 49 percent of Democrats polled put Scott in those top categories, while 62 percent of independents considered his handling of the storm “excellent” or “good.”

Scott has taken heat for a hike in debris removal rates in the Florida Keys, and for deleting voicemail messages from officials with The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home in Broward County. The calls were made as residents, many of them elderly, overheated after the facility lost air conditioning due to the deadly storm. Fourteen residents eventually died.

But voters’ overall satisfaction with how Scott managed the storm — which impacted nearly every part of the state after making landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10 — can’t be good for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is likely to face-off against the governor in his bid for re-election next year.

A University of North Florida poll of registered Florida voters released Monday put Nelson and Scott in a near dead heat, with 37 percent supporting Nelson and 36 percent for Scott. Another 20 percent undecided.

More importantly, the statewide poll by the school’s Public Opinion Research Lab, found that nearly half of the voters queried — 49 percent — couldn’t say how Nelson is doing as senator, a position he’s held since 2001. The poll, conducted from Oct. 11-17, had a 3.39 percentage point margin of error.

The Mason-Dixon poll, conducted via landline and cell phones, had a 4-percentage point margin of error.

Among those polled, 10 percent reported “very serious” property damage, while 50 percent suffered little or no property damage from the storm.

Those figures, along with the shifting storm track that put many evacuees into the eventual path of Irma, could help explain the reluctance to evacuate from the next storm revealed by the polling outfit.

“Next time round could be a different story, as many Floridians indicate they will rethink their actions,” Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker stated in a release. “Statewide, only 57% say that they will follow an evacuation order in the face of a hurricane similar in strength to Irma.”

The state has estimated that about 6 million people were ordered to evacuate, but it’s unknown how many actually took to the road. Many people who weren’t under evacuation orders decided to skedaddle.

Among those surveyed, 19 percent were ordered to evacuate and did. From that group, 71 percent said they would pack up for the next storm.

Another 14 percent of those surveyed didn’t heed the evacuation orders they were given. Among them, 19 percent said the next time they would hit the road.

Of those polled, 13 percent did evacuate despite not being in an evacuation zone.  Just over half, 57 of those people would leave home in the next storm.

Finally, of the 54 percent of Floridians polled that stayed put and weren’t told to leave, 62 percent said they “definitely would” evacuate if told to move out before the next storm.

By Jim Turner.

 

 

Video: Marco Rubio bemoans lack of aid for citrus growers

Florida’s U.S. senators have made a bipartisan pitch for the citrus industry to their colleagues, but it’s unclear whether federal lawmakers will fork over the money to bail out Sunshine State growers devastated by Hurricane Irma.

The state estimates the citrus industry took a $640 million wallop, but ag experts, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, say that damage is actually much higher.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a speech on the floor yesterday bemoaning the fact that the Florida delegation couldn’t get aid for the citrus growers in the recovery spending bill.

Here’s part of his speech:

“You have the entire Florida delegation in the House in favor of it, and they couldn’t get it in the House bill. You have both senators here for it, it can’t be part of this year because if we change it and go back we’re going to lose time. No one can tell you why it’s not in there, no one can tell you they are against it being in there, but it’s not in there. So you sometimes begin to wonder, I guess you start to understand, why people look at this process and just shake their head.

So unfortunately it looks like that’s been foreclosed and obviously this thing will move forward. Senator Nelson just made that motion, and it was objected to, so it won’t be part of this package. But I just hope we think about those men and women, these families that own these groves—how do you explain this to them? And what happens if they go away? What happens if we lose this critical industry? It won’t just hurt Florida. I think it hurts the country, and I think it sets a precedent for other crops that might be threatened likewise in the future.”

Triple-shot of storms prompt Nelson, other Dems to seek DACA extension

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and more than three dozen other Senate Democrats are asking President Donald Trump‘s administration to extend an Oct. 5 deadline for “Dreamers” to renew their status, due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“These major hurricanes significantly disrupted day to day living and operations in these states and territories,” the lawmakers, led by Nelson and two others, wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today. “It would be appropriate for the government to extend the October 5, 2017 deadline nationwide to allow individuals adequate time to meet the government’s recent request.”

Trump and his administration announced earlier this month that the president intends to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, a policy launched by President Barack Obama aimed at allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

The Trump policy would allow some “Dreamers” currently enrolled in DACA to apply for renewal.

“Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still working to recover and will be for some time,” the lawmakers wrote. “An extension of the deadline would provide DACA recipients more time to collect the $495 application fee and gather the necessary documents to accurately complete the renewal application.”

Florida, where Hurricane Irma knocked out power for two-thirds of the state and resulted in historic flooding on both coasts, is home to an estimated 30,000 Dreamers.

 

Jameis Winston gets in the Irma relief game

924-winstonTampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will hand off 400 Publix gift cards, worth $25 each, to Tampa Bay area victims of Hurricane Irma tomorrow.

The donation from the Florida State University alum is part of a relief effort with Feeding Tampa Bay and the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.

Feeding Tampa Bay will provide 35 pounds of food to each family at a late afternoon event at the CDC office on Hillsborough Avenue. The food goods are being offered after Irma knocked out power throughout the Tampa Bay area.

The CDC is targeting “areas of greatest need,” including residents of low-income communities and families with children and seniors, Ernest Coney, CEO and president of CDC of Tampa, Inc., said in a press release.

 

“The generosity of Jameis Winston, Feeding America and other local partners, allows us to continue to lift spirits and help families to get back on their feet,” Coney said.

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

Nelson asks feds to extend emergency housing for Irma victims

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson wants President Donald Trump’s administration to extend short-term housing benefits for residents displaced by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Keys and Southwest Florida before wreaking havoc across the state.

Nelson, a Democrat who may be facing a re-election challenge from Gov. Rick Scott next year, asked FEMA Administrator Brock Long to extend the Transitional Assistance Program (TSA), which pays for housing such as hotel rooms.

The housing aid is “critical for individuals rebuilding their lives,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Long today.

Some of the housing benefits are set to expire as early as this weekend, according to Nelson.

“After living through one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in this country, it is cruel to make Floridians fret over having to abandon their living situation for the second time, all because of a short-term deadline set by the government. I urge you to extend the assistance period and provide additional relief to those recovering from the storm,” Nelson wrote.

 

Speaker Paul Ryan after touring Florida Irma damage: “We are in it with you”

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After touring the wreckage caused by Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville and the Keys, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan assured Floridians that he’s got their backs.

“America loves Florida. I gotta just tell ya,” Ryan, flanked by bipartisan representatives of Florida’s congressional delegation and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, told a gaggle of reporters at an airport hangar in Miami.

The group’s tour took place as Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, leaving 100 percent of the island — still reeling from Irma — without power.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a young guy. I’ve been fishing in the back bay, in Florida Bay behind Islamorada since my early 20s. My mom is a resident of Broward County. And so we want Floridians to know that they, too are in the front of our thoughts and our prayers, that the federal response will be there. That’s why we are here.”

The Florida lawmakers brought the House speaker (and other congressional budget leaders) down to witness first-hand Irma’s widespread impact, Rubio said.

“We know there’s going to be money needed to help the state of Florida recover,” Rubio said. “We wanted him to see it.

The assessment apparently worked, with Ryan pledging bipartisan support for rebuilding Florida, “whether it’s structures or businesses or agriculture or everything in between.”

“More is going to occur. More is coming,” he said. “We want the people of Florida to know that we are in it with you, that the federal response will be complete and that we have more work to do and that’s why we’re here, to assess this.”

Ryan called the damage to Florida “really astounding” after flying over Miami and the Keys, where Irma initially made landfall Sunday before coming ashore again in the southwest region of the state.

Ryan marveled that the massive storm affected nearly every part of Florida.

“What’s impressive is the response and what is needed is more aid and more help,” he said. “We know the federal government has a very important role to play here.”

Ravaged Keys bullseye of Florida tourism marketing plan

There’s still no price tag on the economic impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida’s tourism industry, but Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration yesterday announced an “aggressive new marketing” plan to lure back to the state.

Here’s a deeper dive into Visit Florida’s post-storm message:

— The online and broadcast campaign will start this week and run for about a month, leading into the state’s public-private tourism agency’s traditional winter marketing.

— The Florida Keys will get a lot of play “once our partners there have indicated they are ready to welcome visitors back.”

Scott wants the state’s tourism mecca up-and-running again by Oct. 1.

And with the state having to scramble to top last year’s 113 million visitors, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson described the marketing plan on Tuesday as one that will showcase “sunshine, blue skies and good times.”

Here’s more from Visit Florida:

— Phase one: “Florida is open for business.”

Sharing our partners’ content on social media as they post messages post-Irma.

Streaming live video broadcasts from locations across the state to targeted domestic and international audiences.

Deploying production teams across the state to develop video content that we will post and promote on social channels, YouTube and Digital TV.

Sponsoring social media efforts to encourage state-wide usage of #LoveFL by Florida residents.

Activating international tour operators in core international markets to manage any potential misperceptions of damage and encourage continuation of bookings, especially in the upcoming high booking month of October.

Reaching out to influencers and journalists who have been hosted on press trips to share their experiences from areas they visited.

— Phase two: “more traditional advertising tactics.”

Launching a multi-channel paid-media campaign that could include platforms such as billboards, digital transportation banners, social, online travel agencies, promotions, broadcast, YouTube and a co-branded media partnership.

Increasing our “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program to send advocates to local areas and connect with local Instagram communities to create InstaMeets across the state, in which Instagrammers meet up to take photos and videos of a certain area that they share in a branded effort.

Working with influencers to travel to areas around the state and share the message that Florida is sunny and open for business.

 

By Jim Turner.