After the storms had past, in October of 2004, the Florida Department of Health updated their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System by adding 30 questions to the survey to assess the impact Floridians experienced from the hurricanes. Being from a barrier island on the east coast of Florida it’s hard for me to know a way of life that doesn’t include an evacuation plan during hurricane season, so I was shocked to hear that almost one out of every two Floridians didn’t have any evacuation plans in place before the hurricanes.
There were reports that one out of every five homes in Florida was damaged by the 2004 hurricane season. Insurance claims for the state surpassed those filed in 1992, for Hurricane Andrew, by over 1.3 million. It was approximated at the time that $50 billion in insured and uninsured damage was caused by the four hurricane cluster, but driving around it was hard to imagine it wasn’t more. It was dubbed as the costliest season on record and what I would call the most draining as a Florida native. From Daytona Beach to the Space Coast there was damage around every corner.
It took almost three years for the Beachcomber hotel in Daytona Beach to settle their insurance battle so that the property could be demolished, while the neighboring Treasure Island hotel was still facing insurance troubles to do the same thing. My parents were very lucky that their damage extended only to landscaping. After evacuating for one of the storms they returned home to find many of their massive palm trees, that had previously surrounded their corner lot, laying on our roof. Luckily none of the ceiling tiles were too badly damaged and the roof was still in place. It was probably the deciding factor for my mom that many of the other palm trees that stood standing would need to be removed before future hurricane seasons.
After surviving four hurricanes in just forty-four days, Florida was declared to be in a state of emergency. The Florida Division of Emergency Management rolled in and attempted to get the Central Florida area back on track as FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate opened the floodgates to a new era of disaster response and soon to come recovery. This was the beginning to all state and federal agencies pulling together under one umbrella to tackle the devastation that the 2004 hurricane season left behind. Although FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management provided 561,00 tarps, 78.5 million pounds of ice, 14 million ready-to-eat meals, and 10 million gallons of water it just wasn’t enough. Partnering agencies quickly came together to continue sheltering more than 368,000 residents and provide more than 17,000 temporary housing options. Quickly 2004 became the largest disaster response year in Florida history.