Fabiola Santiago

Memo to Gov. Rick Scott: A real Floridian doesn’t get hysterical over rain and squalls

Beachgoers walk on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach on Monday as Subtropical Storm Alberto approached the Gulf Coast. The storm's gusty rain and brisk winds roiled the seas, keeping white sandy beaches emptied of their usual Memorial Day crowds.
Beachgoers walk on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach on Monday as Subtropical Storm Alberto approached the Gulf Coast. The storm's gusty rain and brisk winds roiled the seas, keeping white sandy beaches emptied of their usual Memorial Day crowds. AP

Thanks to Gov. Rick Scott’s hysterics, I had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. I managed the perfect mix of binge reading and Netflix watching, shopping without crowds, and hanging out with favorite family members.

It was easy to keep the rest of the world at bay with the best of excuses: The governor had declared a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties.

Except for a snippet of the Panhandle, the rest of the state wasn’t near the cone of concern, but nevertheless Scott issued his Paul Revere cry: Prepare, Floridians, Subtropical Storm Alberto is coming! Your governor is here for you with resources!

Well, it was more like, your governor is here using his office on the campaign trail to the U.S. Senate.

Here are his comments, annotated:

“As we continue to monitor Subtropical Storm Alberto’s northward path toward Florida [Exaggeration, the path was Alabama/Mississippi, made landfall Monday east of Pensacola], it is critically important that all Florida counties have every available resource to keep families safe and prepare for the torrential rain [didn’t happen for most] and severe flooding [didn’t happen for most] this storm will bring,” Scott said.

There was nothing too alarmist for on-the-job Scott to say.

“If any Florida family doesn’t have an emergency preparedness plan, now is the time to act [It was raining as much as it would by the time he told us to prepare]. Remember, the track of these storms can change without notice [This one was actually steady and unchanging]. Do not think that only areas in the cone will be impacted — everyone in our state must be prepared [East coast residents are thanking him at this point for thinning the beach crowds]. I encourage every Floridian to visit FloridaDisaster.org and get your plan before this storm hits so you can keep your family safe. We will continue to provide updates to Florida’s residents and visitors [What visitors? They stayed home] and do everything to prepare for and respond to this storm.”

Doesn’t carpetbagger Scott know by now that a real Floridian doesn’t get hysterical over summer rain and squalls?

Alberto left the governor with egg on his face.

Most of South Florida didn’t even get five inches of rain. There was no loss of power or Internet connectivity as sometimes happens in routine bad weather. In fact on Monday, 99 percent of households had electricity, according to the Florida State Emergency Response team. Memorial Day activities honoring the fallen went on largely as scheduled.

And Alberto's winds did provide amusement to tourists at a Panama City resort by spawning a mini-vortex at the pool.

The losers of Scott's overkill, however, were businesses, particularly in tourism, who depend on holiday weekends for a big chunk of their sales — and lost out to the exaggeration of what amounted to sporadic rain showers with some squally weather. That was the only debris left by Alberto for Scott to clean up. The governor was very busy Tuesday talking up the tourism industry and rallying Visit Florida to develop marketing campaigns to draw bigger crowds to the Panhandle.

Scott’s cry-wolf antics would be a bad joke if real bad weather and real hurricanes weren’t dangerous.

Despite the government’s official count of 64 people killed in Puerto Rico, a new report on last year’s Hurricane Maria path through the island estimates that as many as 4,600 deaths could have resulted from delayed medical care. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions surveyed the population throughout the island and found that during the three months following Maria an extraordinarily higher number of people died than the year before.

This can be traced directly to the delay in getting help to Puerto Rico's 3.4 million U.S. citizens by President Donald Trump’s administration, which had to be shamed into jumping into action. And once Trump visited, he made a total fool of himself and light of the dire situation by throwing paper towels at the crowd.

So, yes, having competent governance before, during and after major storms is a life-and-death subject.

Any layman could look at the National Hurricane Center’s tracking of Alberto, however, and see that it was aiming west of most of Florida. But the governor is in a neck-to-neck race to unseat incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Scott was all over Hurricane Irma and it helped raise his profile despite the deaths of nursing home residents on his watch.

It’s going to be a long summer with campaigning Rick Scott in charge.

Hysterical season — I mean, hurricane season — starts on Friday.

Brace yourselves for more bogus displays of stormy weather leadership.

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