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Biden Administration urges Florida use bolstered weather resiliency program

'Look, we all know that climate change is happening,' White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy says
Posted at 6:36 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 20:01:33-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As another busy hurricane season approaches, the Biden Administration announced this week it's doubling federal dollars to help communities prepare for extreme storms. And officials believe the Sunshine State will benefit.

Hardware manager Gavin Koch is stocked and ready for what is expected to be an active storm season. The Tallahassee Ace Hardware where he works is filled with generators, water bottles and plenty of other supplies.

He not only knows how to prep for severe weather, but he's also seen his fair share of it.

"Chased them when I was younger," said Koch. "I've gone through several different things -- everything from earthquakes to tornadoes. Even a tsunami in Alaska."

Gavin Koch of Ace Hardware
Gavin Koch, an Ace Hardware manager, says his store is stocked and ready for hurricane season.

Koch also saw some of the worst of Mother Nature, nearly losing two friends during Hurricane Michael. The Category 5 hurricane devastated parts of the Florida Panhandle in 2018, some still recovering years later.

"They were hurrying at the last minute, in the middle of the storm, trying to find opens stores with water, things like that," Koch said. "A tree fell in the middle of the road -- took the top of their truck off. It's dangerous. You don’t want to do this while the storm is occurring."

The same is true for Florida cities. As waters rise and storms become more powerful, preparation is key.

"Look, we all know that climate change is happening," said White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy.

McCarthy said last year alone, U.S. cities suffered 22 separate weather or climate-related disasters. Losses exceeded $1 billion in each. The total price tag nearly $100 billion.

To lower future costs, McCarthy urged Florida to make use of the recently bolstered BRIC (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) program. The now billion-dollar pot awards states and cities FEMA funds to better protect against flooding, strong storms or wildfires.

Gina McCarthy, White House National Climate Adviser
White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy lays out a program to fund communities for future disasters.

"The money is all about preparing for those eventualities, is making sure that we're making keeping people safe and protecting our communities," McCarthy said.

Money is flexible.

The adviser said Florida could use it to harden shorelines, strengthen warning systems, even better train emergency workers.

"Let's think about the future together and how we build that and build it back better," McCarthy said.

An investment now could save billions later, a rule for Florida as a whole and those Koch will be helping this year.

"It could be life or death, honestly," Koch said.

Florida is no stranger to the BRIC program.

Last year, when the pot was half as large, the state applied for help with more than $200 million in projects, most of them flooding mitigation.

Federal officials said they would announce 2020 recipients this summer.