Saturday, November 05, 2005

Is There Anybody Out There?

Back at work this week talking with people around the country, an odd fact has dawned on me: people have no idea what's going on down here in South Florida. They saw something about a hurricane approaching a few weeks ago, but that was about the last they heard of it. They didn't realize there was anything still wrong.

Many people (in the thousands) have been left homeless by Hurricane Wilma. The schools have been shut down now for over two full weeks. Sizeable portions of Broward County (where Ft. Lauderdale is) Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach County are still without power after twelve days--tens of thousands of people. Workers are regularly facing hours-long commutes. Tons of businesses are still unable to open. The roadsides are piled feet high with debris, downed trees, fallen streetlights, and heaven knows what else. Many of the major intersections have no working stoplights; as of 72 hours ago, 87% of the traffic signals in Broward County were non-functional. The court system has ground to a halt as the Broward County courts building suffered significant damage. Thousands of insurance adjusters have poured into the area to distribute billions of dollars of benefits. FEMA is writing checks that would make your head spin. For several days, we had gasoline lines that streched on for four or five hours and longer.

And yet nobody outside of South Florida seems to have any idea about it.

I have to admit I find this odd. I'm certainly not looking for any sympathy (since my damage was relatively minor, and I've had my electricity back for a week), but I'm shocked that what's happening here is being entirely ignored by the national media. The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market is one of the top dozen in the nation (and Palm Beach is number 30-something). It's one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world. It's a major metro area (bigger than New Orleans, I might add) that has been in full crisis mode for much of the last two weeks. I just can't imagine an area of this size going through what has happened (and to some degree is continuing to happen) without anybody knowing about it. They're certainly going to be donating billions of tax dollars to this area--I'd think they'd want somebody to clue them in.

Granted, most people here are calmly going about their business, and there have been no riots in the streets. Nobody has eaten anyone else as far as I know. And things are becoming closer to normal each day. So why do you think it's been entirely ignored? Is the country so burned out on Katrina that it doesn't want to hear about hurricanes anymore? Did you know these things had happened/were happening down here?

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