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Florida's 67 Counties To Learn About Resilience Against Hurricanes, Rising Seas, Power Outages

In September 2017, Floridians flooded the Turnpike trying to evacuate before Hurricane Irma.
Al Diaz
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Leaders from Florida’s 67 counties will learn about a buzzword this week: resilience.

"It’s about understanding your neighbors, that their shortfalls may become your problem, and their assets may also be a solution to your problem," said State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, organizer of a panel on resilience at this week's Florida Association of Counties meeting in Orlando.

Jacobs said one goal is to talk with county leaders and state Department of Environment Secretary Noah Valenstein about collaborative solutions to common challenges, including hurricane evacuations. 

"Shelters are built to accommodate the amount of people that live in their county," she said, but "in Irma, the entire state basically picked up and moved to another county," leading to traffic jams, volunteer shortages and issues sheltering elderly and disabled Floridians.

Read more: Irma-bnb? How South Florida's Tourism Industry Could Help With Preparations For Future Storms

Jacobs, who represents parts of northwestern Broward County, says it's time for a statewide look at how to adapt Florida's drinking water system, power grid and highways to challenges like hurricanes and sea-level rise.

"We may not have thought together about what happens when the next utility doesn’t have enough water or wastewater, when saltwater intrudes in their potable water supply and now they need to reach further inland," she said.

Read more: Broward's Water Wells Are More At Risk From Rising Seas Than Miami-Dade's, Study Finds

She said she's also hoping to help counties with fewer staff learn about opportunities for funding from the state and federal government for resilience efforts.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.