WeatherHurricane

Actions

Population growth, housing market are added challenges for 2024 Governor's Hurricane Conference

'You don't have it where there's 70% occupancy and you can use 30% to help people displaced, you just don't have that in Florida,' Shane Ratliff says
Posted at 5:46 PM, May 16, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla — A critical conversation continues in Palm Beach County—how do we better prepare for what forecasters are expecting will be active hurricane season?

It's a discussion that happens every year during the annual Governor's Hurricane Conference as local authorities and meteorologists discuss what we've learned from past storms to help us be ready for the future.

This time around, as leaders from 65 out of Florida's 67 counties descended on the Palm Beach County Convention Center for the 2024 session, population growth is adding an unexpected challenge.

"40% to 50%, there’s that many people moving down here from the northeast who have never been through a hurricane before," Shane Ratliff, Port St Lucie's emergency operations manager, said.

Discussing solutions to the issue is one of many reasons Ratliff attended the GHC this year. WithPort St. Lucie as one of the fastest growing citiesin the nation, Ratliff said it's critical to learn from other county leaders and figure out how to better communicate with an influx of new residents.

"It's simplifying the information," Ratliff said. "We want to talk on the level that they’re used to hearing it."

Messaging and communication was an emphasis of this year's conference.

In a panel moderated by our WPTV First Alert Weather Chief Meteorologist Steve Weagle, Director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie told the crowd in attendance that issuing quick communication via multiple mediums will be key this year, as the National Hurricane Center's Dr. Michael Brennan displayed data showing the country's deadliest hurricanes also intensified the fastest.

Shane Ratliff Port St Lucie emergency operations manager Governors Hurricane Conference May 2024 .png
Port St. Lucie Emergency Operations Manager Shane Ratliff says many who move to Florida have not experienced a hurricane.

Accuweather previously told WPTV's Kate Hussey they're predicting as many as four to six major hurricanes directly hitting the U.S., with South Florida as one of the regions most at risk for impact.

"So many lessons learned that they tell you things you would never expect," Martin County's Emergency Management Director Sally Waite said.

Waite said she was eager to implement what she's learning from those who have been hit hard by storms themselves, as the time to prepare resources and secure supplies is now.

"You know, recovery really starts the day the storm comes in," Waite said. "You really got to be ready for all that temporary housing, disaster housing, where do you put people?”

That seemed to be the conundrum across the region this year: finding disaster housing for a population exponentially larger.

"How do you approach that?" Hussey asked Ratliff.

WATCH: Expo is about securing supplies and building relationships

Hurricane Expo is about securing supplies and building relationships

“Disaster housing, any emergency manager will tell you, that’s the hidden thing that everybody worries about, because nobody knows how do we solve the housing market," Ratliff said. "There's not houses out there, apartments are full. You don't have it where there's 70% occupancy and you can use 30% to help people displaced, you just don't have that in Florida."

Ratliff said the city of Port St. Lucie is working with the state to bring in additional temporary housing in case a hurricane causes a major displacement, and several options for housing were on display at the conference's hurricane expo for emergency managers to browse.

"We're just like, what don't we have, what do we need, and what do we need more of?" Waite said.

Waite said the expo is a critical part of the preparation process, especially with so many new residents to communicate with and help recover.

From LED message boards to safety equipment for disaster cleanup crews, Waite pointed out you don't always know what you need until you see what you don't have.

"It’s not only the socializing with directors and staff but just coming here and seeing all the information, you see things, and you’re like, 'Wow, I can really use that,'" Waite said.

Martin County Emergency Management Director Sally Waite May 16 2024 Governors Hurricane Conference.png
Martin County Emergency Management Director Sally Waite says the aim is to learn from other directors and see what the needs are in a disaster.

Waite also said the expo isn't just about securing supplies but also about building relationships with local nonprofits and other partners to secure aid and help now. All those who spoke with WPTV told us recovery starts before the storm.

“I think recovery is huge after seeing Ian for most emergency management directors," Waite said. "During Hurricane Ian, I was called over to help, and if I have a storm, I have many directors and emergency management staff that I know all over the state of Florida that would come in, even people outside the state, so that relationship has to be so strong."

It's part of the reason the American Red Cross said they have a booth at the conference too: to build relationships and offer services.

"You know, it used to be that building relationships was nice and it's something that you should do, but in this day, when you have so many natural disasters back to back and the Red Cross is in a chronic state of deployment for natural disasters, it is crucial, it is critical," Eric Roby, executive director of the organization's Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast Chapter, said.

The Governor's Hurricane Conference runs through May 17 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

WPTV First Alert Weather Spotters Sponsored By: Manatee Lagoon

About WPTV NewsChannel 5

Join WPTV First Alert Weather Spotters team

Jonathan Diego
4:35 PM, Jul 06, 2022
wptv-surf-forecast.jpg

Surfing Blog

Surf Forecast: Rideable surf all this week!

James Wieland
8:53 AM, Oct 09, 2019

2024 STORM NAMES

Alberto

Beryl

Chris

Debby

Ernesto

Francine

Gordon

Helene

Isaac

Joyce

Kirk

Leslie

Milton

Nadine

Oscar

Patty

Rafael

Sara

Tony

Valerie

William

TERMS TO KNOW

TROPICAL STORM WATCH: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.

TROPICAL STORM WARNING: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.

HURRICANE WATCH: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

HURRICANE WARNING: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.