State of Emergency declared for Colin, here’s why

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency this morning with Tropical Storm Colin expected to make a landfall near the Big Bend area of the state this afternoon.

The declaration is an administrative move that allows emergency officials to reallocate resources, money and staff in a more efficient manner to deal with the emergency.

It basically helps cut through bureaucracy that might otherwise get in the way of dealing quickly with a storm.

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At the Governor’s Hurricane Conference last month, the phrase “state of emergency” drew some discussion as whether it is overly alarmist.

Last year, before tropical storm watches or warnings were even issued for Florida during Tropical Storm Erika, Scott declared a state of emergency.

Erika fizzled over Hispaniola before gaining hurricane status.

“The phrase state of emergency piques people’s interest and we need to do a better job on the front end explaining it, what it means,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesman Aaron Gallagher at the conference. “A state of emergency empowers emergency officials to be able to move in a more expeditious manner and marshal resources in a coordinated effort.”

Mike Buresh, chief meteorologist at WJAX-TV in Jacksonville, said during the conference that a state of emergency can easily be misinterpreted.

“When the state of emergency was issued, it might as well been a hurricane warning,” Buresh said about Erika.  “I don’t think it was a bad move, but boy, the interpretation was mind-boggling.”

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who attended the conference, agreed.

“At CNN, if you hear ‘state of emergency,’ that’s not going to be at the end of the forecast. That’s, boom, right in front,” she said.

While Erika never reached Florida, it proved deadly elsewhere. In Dominica, 30 people died and 574 people were left homeless, according to a National Hurricane Center report. One person in Haiti was killed in a mudslide.

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