It was a “one in thousand year event.” Or was it?
Extreme weather is here to stay forever in Florida…
The event for me
I ended up at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) on Wednesday for over 10 hours, picking up a family member and ended up stuck due to the airport’s closure. During that period, I had no food, drink or relief (ie. bathroom breaks). Yet I was lucky. So many others trapped at FLL had it worse than me. And during that period we received very little in way of official announcements (I wasn’t even made aware of whether the flight I was waiting for had disembarked nor about the airport’s closure- no PA announcements were made before 5:45 pm et, leading me to go back to my car and get royally stuck in the parking garage- a lot I didn’t escape until about 1 am et) and saw little evidence of emergency preparedness until several hours into the event. And many in the garage had it MUCH worse than me. (to be honest the drive to FLL on I-595 felt like a near-death experience, worse than Tropical Storms and front ends of Hurricanes I have driven in, so as awful as it was being trapped in a location with rising floodwaters, it wasn’t the scariest experience of the day for me!)
Who is to blame?
All of this having been said, how Wednesday and Thursday played not the fault of the airport or anyone currently working at Broward County Government – it is the fault of a general culture in these parts of many in the political leadership (who are almost all Democrats) to punt on the climate crisis, while continuing to build upwards and outwards without the needed support infrastructure. It’s a net result of taking nature’s built-in buffers and building on them rather than protecting them (which means the water has NOWHERE to go, something I witnessed first hand at FLL as the water kept rising and rising in front of my eyes). It’s a result of politicians in both parties either ignoring climate change or simply giving it lip service. Simply put it was a natural disaster with a clear human-made component.
The City of Fort Lauderdale in particular has been delinquent and lazy in combating the climate. It’s a locality that sees itself as some sort of global brand and talks about Elon Musk and the Boring Company tunneling, while storm-water routinely causes nightmares for local residents and businesses. It’s a city that gave David Beckham millions in tax breaks and land that’s virtually free (a property on which the MLS club Beckham partially owns has not met its stated public commitments) yet has not taken the aggressive actions other south Florida municipalities like Miami Beach, South Miami and Hollywood have regarding Climate action. (Note: It is important to distinguish Fort Lauderdale from Broward County here – the County has been much more serious about Climate action, promoting mass transit, protecting green space, etc than the city itself).
Broward County and the Airport as improvement are ongoing
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is the 35th busiest airport in the world (per 2022 statistics) yet lacks the critical on-site infrastructure to deal with an emergency of this sort. This might be a result of an airport that until recently was so sweaty about keeping down fees, and therefore attracting discount travelers … Or it might be the result of a lack of planning by the county regarding the airport, which while a mistake is understandable – the county has changed tact upgrading facilities recently, but that’s not all done yet unfortunately. In either event, I trust the next time this happens (and it will happen again), the airport will be more prepared.
It’s time to get critically serious about climate mitigation and the time has come to have real concurrency – stop building until infrastructure catches up. To do otherwise would be malfeasance of the highest-order and saddling the younger generations with a time bomb that’s not just ticking but cannot be stopped.
I live on a street that is adjacent to the intercoastal. All of the storm drains on the street pipe directly into the intercoastal / ocean and yet at the height of the rains / low tide, 8:30 pm there was two fees of water in the street and my house flooded. I dont know why the rain water didnt simply drain onto the ocean. As the the City response, the should have closed my street to traffic, but they did not. Even on the second day of flooding. Consequently inconsiderate SUV drivers ploughed though t he flood waters generating a wake bringing in even more water through my front door. I agree that the city has done next to nothing about sea level rise and has engaged in profligate spending on pointless vanity projects such as the ice rink, the the park on top of the Kinney tunnel that had half of the traffic lanes on US 1 closed for two years.