In the months that followed Hurricane Katrina, I had the opportunity to interview several people who had fled New Orleans. None of them planned to return.
I can’t say that I blame them.
But it would be very difficult to leave your home, especially if it’s all you’ve ever known, and move elsewhere to start all over.
I’ve seen coverage of New Orleans and other areas since that storm proclaiming the fact that many of those areas have been slow to recover, particularly the Big Easy.
I read one such article the other day. According to that piece, published by Associated Press, New Orleans has been slow to recover because of “the lost population” – those who have chosen to not return.
Officials on the state and federal levels have been seeking ways to prevent people from leaving Florida after such devastation or, if they do, get them to come back. Their solution? Foreclosed homes.
It seems that currently, there are nearly 300,000 foreclosed homes in the state of Florida, and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials think it could be the solution in this state.
It works like this: FEMA officials contact banks and other mortgage holders, and get them to allow evacuees to stay in foreclosed homes near their own, allowing them to return home after a storm – or at least close by. FEMA would then use a contractor to facilitate rent paid directly to whoever owns the home.
If the idea, which is still in the developmental stage, works in Florida, it could be used as a model nationally.
Let’s hope we don’t have to find out if this program will actually work.
Weather experts are predicting a 50 percent chance of a near normal hurricane season this year, a 25 percent chance that the season will have above normal activity, and a 25 percent chance that it will be less than normal. Forecasters also say there is a 70 percent chance that there will be nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes. One of those could even become “major.” And no one knows for sure where any would make landfall.
Hurricane season began June 1, and Gov. Charlie Crist has urged residents to update their disaster plans. The Florida Division of Emergency Management released a Mason-Dixon Poll recently which assessed hurricane safety and awareness. Of those polled, 67 percent of Floridians said they have a disaster plan. It also stated that 11 percent of those polled said they would not evacuate if asked to.
Folks, whatever the predictions are, we must be prepared. Last year’s brush with Tropical Storm Fay should have taught us that.
So start buying up your batteries, bottled water and flashlights – and let’s make it through whatever Mother Nature tosses our way this year in one piece.