TALLAHASSEE – A newly-elected member of the Florida House of Representatives, a Port St. Joe commissioner and the chief of police for Port St. Joe were among the panelists last week at a hurricane preparedness forum.

The forum was hosted by students from Florida State University’s Masters in Applied American Politics and Policy program’s Earned Media class.

The panel included State Rep. Jason Shoaf, Port St. Joe Commissioner Scott Hoffman and Port St. Joe Police Chief Matt Herring.

Other officials from across the Big Bend area invited to discuss the impacts of Hurricane Michael, ongoing recovery efforts and explain what residents can do to be best prepared for the current hurricane season were Chief Meteorologist Mike McCall from WCTV-Tallahassee and Meteorologist Charles Roop, also from WCTV Tallahassee.

The event, moderated by Capitol Reporter Troy Kinsey from Bay News 9, was held at the Historic Capitol Museum.

“I’m encouraging local residents to remain proactive this season and make emergency plans now. We want citizens to know that you don’t have to wait until a hurricane forms to start getting prepared,” said Shoaf, elected last month to the Disttrict 7 seat in the Florida House.

“There are helpful resources available right now on the Department of Emergency Management’s website that can help families and businesses with organizing critical emergency plans. I know the kind of devastation these storms can cause to a region.” Shoaf’s district covers all or part of 10 counties, including several severely impacted by Hurricane Michael; the hardest hit, of course, being Gulf County and Shoaf’s hometown of Port St. Joe.

The numbers have become numbing.

Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10, 2018, as a Category 5 storm.

The storm’s winds reached up to 160 mph, produced devastating storm surges and wiped out a large portion of area coastlines.

The hurricane caused an estimated $25 billion in damages and there were 16 deaths linked to the storm.

The last Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season began on June 1 and ends on November 30, and Floridians are encouraged to take this storm season very seriously.

“Hurricane Michael brought unprecedented devastation to the Big Bend area and we want to make sure that the public is going to take this year’s hurricane season seriously,” Hoffman said. “It’s important that we provide the public with vital information so they can be better prepared for these dangerous storms.

“Every resident should begin gathering the necessary items and supplies that are necessary in the event of a hurricane such as drinking water, flashlights, hand radios, and non-perishable food.”

Local residents are encouraged to have at least seven days of critical supplies ready in the event of a hurricane. Information regarding hurricane preparedness can be found at www.floridadisaster.org. The site provides residents with resources regarding what supplies they should gather and how they can make plans related to disabilities, pets, and emergency evacuations.

 

“Our goal with organizing this event was really to help the local community learn what local resources are available and what they can do in advance to be safe in future storms. We hoped that they could feel confident in the efforts of their local leaders who are trying their best to keep people safe after the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael last year,” said Jim Spearing, a student in this year’s Earned Media class.

 

This event was organized by the Florida State University’s Masters in Applied American Politics and Policy program. “This program is designed to train students with practical and applicable skills, such as organizing events like this, so they are prepared to build long and successful careers in politics,” said Dr. Robert Crew, Department Chair of the MAAPP program. “I’m pleased that this year’s students wanted to host an event that gathered community leaders together to discuss ways we can help keep our families safe and prepared this Hurricane Season.”