JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Hurricane Matthew was initially projected to make the same catastrophic impact to the First Coast that Harvey has made in Texas. However, it made a last minute deviation from our coast, whereas Texas got a last minute intensification.
While the majority of Northeast Florida was told to evacuate during Matthew last year, some major cities in Texas that are now underwater because of Hurricane Harvey - like Houston - were told to stay put. Local and county officials in Houston are still defending their decisions to do so.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says those are difficult decisions that are made with the information available at the time.
“That information comes from experts and you have to make a decision. I would not pass any judgment,” Curry says.
When Matthew was approaching the First Coast, Mayor Curry ordered evacuations for the beaches and told Duval County the city was closing down for non-essential personnel.
He says this is a reminder for Jacksonville to understand the seriousness of Mother Nature.
“Evacuating, knowing your zone, creating a kit, all of that paid off when we went through what we went through,” Curry says. “You know if that storm in Jacksonville had not wobbled off like it did by the grace of God, Jacksonville would have likely faced the horrific scenario we are no seeing in Texas.”
He says if that were to happen here, they are prepared.
“We would have a plan on the front end, you know we mapped out the last storm we had mapped out well in advance with public works … and we will continue to do that this time," he says.
Curry says it’s about being ready ahead of time and, most importantly, understanding teamwork when disaster strikes.
“It’s actually going over to the emergency operations center and being in that room with the different stakeholders, the superintendent, the sheriff,” Curry says. "You have to know who is in charge, who is making decisions and you have to being willing to move.”
He says he is making sure our growing population and aging infrastructures are kept in check too.
“We are serious about infrastructure now, we understand what that means for quality of life on a day to day basis, but also what it might mean in a crisis situation," he says.
He says fixing or upgrading infrastructure is one of his top priorities in this year’s budget.
Jacksonville is still waiting on getting money back from FEMA, but he says that is not a concern right now. He says if disaster strikes again, they will not wait on the government, they will act with whatever monetary means are necessary.
“We are seeking reimbursement from FEMA right now but given that Texas and the country is in the midst of this crisis I would rather not speak to any challenges there, let’s just be prayerful, hopeful and willing to help the people in need right now," he says.