Governor Scott’s decision to declare a State of Emergency days before Hurricane Matthew is projected to be in the vicinity of the state and at a time when only one of six major models used by forecasters has the center of the storm even brushing the state must be political. Or perhaps a desperate play for relevance and media attention? No other rational explanations can be given for such a rash, reactionary and quick-trigger decision by Governor Scott. But the many in the media throughout this state love these scenarios and the Governor knows it, so who can blame him for playing this game with the public and the press? Could his quick trigger also benefit Donald Trump or other political candidates the Governor supports by giving him an aura of credibility and face time for something that is at this writing entirely speculative?
The Governor’s declaration State of Emergency likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars when most meteorologists and Hurricane experts as of this writing believe the storm will stay offshore and impacts to Florida are likely to be limited to Tropical Storm force winds or gusts. This same scenario has played out with many weak tropical systems over the last decade that are so ragged and disorganized they get pushed around by other elements in the weather pattern and forecast tracks are simply educated guesses. But that didn’t stop Governor Scott on previous occasions such as with Tropical Storm Erika last summer
The National Hurricane Center and other tropical weather experts have long cautioned folks not to take intensity forecasts and tracks 3-5 days out for systems as gospel but in this climate of cable news driven sensationalism heightened by the Donald Trump candidacy it is nearly impossible to expect reasonable coverage and reaction. Pair that with a state who is so full of transplants who know about the 2004 and 2005 seasons yet did not live here at the time, panic ensues. The media has a responsibility not to panic the public. The politicians have a responsibility as public officials to be calm, reasoned and lead. But sadly in this era none of that happens.
Matthew, unlike many of those storms I reference above is a major Hurricane, having reached Category 5 status on Friday and continuing now as a Category 4. However, I must repeat that it is too early to project a Florida landfall and the current available data indicates landfall in the state is highly unlikely. Still Floridians should monitor the storm but continue with their daily lives and work routine rather than begin panicking.
Ultimately the winners of such a premature declaration of State of Emergency are Home Depot, Loews, gas stations and Publix. Merchants make out like bandits in week’s like this and perhaps not so ironically all contribute heavily in Florida state elections. Perhaps also Donald Trump and Marco Rubio who could benefit the same way GOP candidates did in 2004 from Governor Jeb Bush’s adroit use of that year’s many hurricanes that hit the state to improve his own personal popularity and that of Republican elected officials.
The loser? Florida’s people who went through yet another elaborate fire drill and who may just let their guard down next time. You can only cry wolf so many times before a public, many of whom didn’t live through Andrew, Opal, Irene or the 2004/2005 storms stop taking these dire predictions seriously. When a storm actually does hit the state if this Matthew threat as it appears passes us by, citizens are far less likely to take warnings seriously.
This is not to underestimate the threat Matthew would pose if it does make landfall in the Sunshine State. But again, we are four days out from a potential landfall and the chances of an actual direct hit on the state from the center of the storm is minimal. It is also worth noting at this point that the current wind field stretching out from the center of storm is far narrower than it was in any of the 2004/2005 storms that hit the state with the exception of Charley. Stronger storms like Matthew tend to have a tight and well-organized center of circulation and in fact in many cases these storms do not deliver Hurricane force winds far beyond that center.
So Floridians should monitor Matthew closely but not panic – even if the Governor and media try and force the issue prematurely.