Florida Government Responds to Severe Weather in Panhandle and Big Bend
Around the State
With parts of the Panhandle and the Big Bend getting heavy inundations of rain, including reports of 22 inches in the western part of the Panhandle, and floods a real threat in North Florida, the state government went into action on Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning for the following counties: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, and Alachua counties. This allows emergency services operations to be ready to spring into action if needed.
Scott headed to Pensacola to meet with leaders in response to the weather and the flooding.
“Early this morning I issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 26 counties to facilitate the rapid response of state and local agencies in supporting families impacted by heavy rains,” Scott said. “Our message to Floridians is this: Please pay attention to your local weather. These types of storms can spawn tornadoes and other quick-moving inclement weather. Also – stay away from high water. Do not try to cross high water. It can be extremely dangerous. Again, all state resources are standing ready to support local officials in the impacted areas and I plan to travel to the Panhandle later today to get a briefing from first responders on the ground.
“This is a slow moving weather system that will continue east through our state, and families should take precautions to secure essential supplies should they lose power or can’t use the roads,” Scott added. “Families should listen to their local leaders and follow their instructions. We’re continuing to work with local leaders on the ground to give them the support they need to keep families safe and get them back on their feet.
“To support our local leaders, early this morning I instructed the National Guard to deploy 24 high-water vehicles to the impacted counties to assist with rescue and recovery operations,” Scott added.
Already, the Florida National Guard has dispatched 75 of its members and 24 high-water vehicles to the area to serve under the authority of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and promised more support is ready if needed.
“The Florida National Guard remains ready and committed to provide the necessary forces in support of continued weather threats to Florida,” said Lt. Col. James Evans, a public affairs officer in Florida National Guard. “We currently have approximately 9,000 troops available to support emergency operations.”
In the meantime, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission is using 13 boats and 31 vehicles in the area while the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Highway Patrol are monitoring roads in the area. Gulf Electric is reporting more than 28,000 families have lost power.
Despite the legislative session coming to an end this week, politics are taking a back seat due to the weather. Scott was scheduled on Wednesday to be in Largo with Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., to focus on how Florida’s economy benefited from the elimination of the manufacturing sales tax. But the severe weather conditions forced the cancellation of that event as well as Scott’s event in Orlando urging President Barack Obama to protect human rights in Venezuela.
Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), was scheduled to attend a fundraising event for Scott and the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) in Lakeland on Wednesday but that has also been canceled.
“Due to severe weather in Florida, these events have been canceled,” Jon Thompson of the RGA emailed the media Wednesday. “Gov. Christie spoke with Gov. Scott early this morning to offer his condolences and to provide any support Florida may need as they work to recover from historic flooding.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.