By Senator Baxley
Floridians are finally starting to return to life as normal after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in our state for almost two weeks. Irma delivered a blow to millions of people throughout the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, leaving many left to piece their lives back together in its wake. Hurricane Irma’s furious march through Florida not only darkened millions of homes, it also flooded roads and piled them with debris, blocking off access to neighborhoods. This has presented more problems for local governments to figure out the best way to clean up and begin recovery efforts. Yet Florida, undoubtedly, has proven its resilience after Irma. Tap water is drinkable. Trash has been picked up. Public transit has slowly come back online. At airports, flights are regularly taking off. We must be grateful for the careful leadership and preparation that Governor Rick Scott and all our elected officials provided before and after the storm. Florida has never seen such widespread effects from a hurricane like this before, and were it not for the tireless efforts of so many, it could have been much worse.
Not only have our infrastructures taken a beating, our agriculture industry faced enormous damage from Hurricane Irma. The storm has ruined what was expected to be the best season for citrus in years. Agriculture makes up roughly 20 percent of Florida’s economy, and FL growers are usually preparing these crops for harvest this time of year. Instead, fruit growers and farmers fear the damage Irma wrought on the state’s citrus, sugar cane and vegetable crops will be catastrophic. Florida farmers suffered 80 to 90 percent losses in parts of the state after Hurricane Irma flattened greenhouses, toppled trees and flooded pastures as it tore through the state. This not only effects the crops in the short term, but can also have long term consequences as damaged to land could prevent farmers from being able to plant their next crop to keep up with the cycle.
Above all, we have learned that Florida remains as resilient as ever. Our citizens are prepared to rebuild and Florida will be stronger as we embrace this challenge together.