Improving Florida's hurricane response

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - A 12-page report on what went wrong during Hurricane Irma and how to improve responses was approved by a select House committee Tuesday in the state capitol.

The majority of the 77 recommendations are less than specific.

The report calls for the Department of Transportation to encourage the use of rail lines to move fuel. It also calls for putting GPS trackers on fuel trucks so emergency managers know when will fuel arrives.

Miami Republican Representative Jeanette Nunez, the Chair of Select Committee said, “This is just a starting point.”

To better move traffic in and out of the state, the report calls for extending the Suncoast Parkway, which now runs from Tampa to Crystal River, all the way to the state line.

And policy makers are still waiting from a report from the Department of Transportation on whether the state ought to actually store more fuel.

Republican Ft. Myers Representative Ray Rodrigues said, “So ideally, if all of those things become implemented, what we will see is a better evacuation process in the future.”

On Wednesday, the House will take up an extended sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies. Also on the agenda: eliminating the sales tax for nursing homes that purchase generators and their fuel.

Amy Datz’s 94-year-old mother died after she was moved during Irma. She believes if generators had been in place her mom would not have been evacuated.

Datz said, “They moved her into a crowded shelter and because of the crowding in the shelter, she got the flu which turned into pneumonia, which ultimately caused her death.”

We asked if she thought her mother would have lived if she stayed at the nursing home.

“Absolutely, she would have lived because she wouldn’t have been exposed to the flu," said Datz.

The report, if passed into law, would instruct the Public Service Commission to study whether it is cost feasible to bury electric lines to avoid lengthy outages.