By Katie Carpenter
Given the harrowing experience with high water in my West Palm Beach neighborhood last month, I would like to thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing the Statewide Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience bill this week. The bill expands Florida’s resilience funding program, establishes a statewide office of resilience and positions the state’s chief resilience officer in the governor’s office. All are needed now, given the more frequent flooding events we face from devastating rainstorms, king tides and more.
The timing couldn’t be better, with hurricane season starting next month. Few people in my part of South Florida feel ready. I hear people ominously say “the water is coming.” Where I live, it’s already here.
Last month, sunny-day flooding backed up dozens of cars in my Northwood Shores neighborhood. Salt water bubbled up from storm drains and crept over hubcaps. If we hadn’t backed out, we’d have been stuck, or perhaps totaled, as some cars soon would be. Salt water and automotive electronics are not a good mix.
During king tides in some Florida communities, you can stand in bright sunshine and watch the water rise toward your knees. It defies credibility. A beautiful sky above, disaster below.
Last month we saw neighbors pumping water from their garages with one hand, while trying to call utility help lines with the other. They showed us the mud lines on their walls, some over a foot high. They faced weeks, if not months, of clean-up.
The tow trucks were busy, too. I heard one driver say to another: “This climate change is going to be good for business.” Other businesses that will thrive if we don’t get ahead of the water: carpet cleaners, debris removal and moving vans.
We recently heard an official say there is little point in protecting infrastructure and critical assets like hospitals and firehouses if there won’t be any residents to use them.
The bill the governor signed will help families stay in their homes for generations by making Florida more resilient. It’s a thoughtful piece of legislation, one that will serve Floridians whether they live near the coast or inland, in a house or multi-family building.
For while there are many steps people can take to protect their homes from flooding, no one can achieve true protection alone. We need partners. We need our state, cities, counties, businesses, NGOs and other stakeholders to pitch in and help.
A city can install bigger drainage pipes, but if those pipes outfall into waterways below the water line, as many now do, they cannot drain the streets until the tide goes out. Higher, bigger pipes are needed. So are elevated homes and streets, permeable pavements, bio-swales and other innovative water drainage measures. There are so many good ideas and so little time.
Protecting Florida with timely and effective resilience measures will be an ongoing undertaking, but if we’re all pulling together, we’ll get it done in time.
Katie Carpenter is communications director for Resilient Enterprise Solutions, which provides resilience products and services to Florida homeowners in high-flood-risk areas.