TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – After being largely spared by Hurricane Dorian, Florida and the state’s largest electric utility are sending more than a half-million bottles of water to storm-ravaged parts of the Bahamas.
Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Power & Light on Tuesday announced plans to ship 19 truckloads of water — including 10 truckloads that had been stockpiled by the state for the ongoing hurricane season — to Nassau, where the Bahamian government is staging most of its relief efforts.
“Just over a week ago, Hurricane Dorian barreled towards our coast and the state of Florida prepared for the worst,” said Governor DeSantis. “Although Florida was lucky, we know that our neighbors in the Bahamas bore the brunt of this storm. Today, I’m proud to announce our state is partnering with FPL to extend a hand to those in need in the Bahamas with 590,000 bottles of water. Thanks to the generous contributions of Floridians and corporate partners, we’re also proud to highlight more than $11 million in donations to assist in recovery efforts.”
With more than 80 days remaining in the Atlantic hurricane season, now at its peak, DeSantis said the donation shouldn’t leave the state short in case any of three disturbances now being monitored by the National Hurricane Center pose an immediate threat to the state.
“We’re not out of the woods with hurricane season, obviously we’re still monitoring,” DeSantis said. “But we felt comfortable we can give some of the water — given the acute needs in the Bahamas — and then still be in the position to backfill if we’re unfortunate enough to get hit with a storm.”
In advance of Dorian, Florida deployed 860,000 bottles of water and 1.8 million meals to counties that faced threats from the storm, and another 819,000 gallons of water were ready for distribution. Also, 730,000 pounds of ice were ready for distribution.
But Dorian skirted the state’s East Coast, sparing Florida communities — and millions of FPL customers — from a direct hit.
“Hurricane Dorian was a devastating storm that sat on our doorstep for 40 hours and by some miracle, took a 90 degree turn north. What happened in the Bahamas could have easily been us,” said Florida Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. “Clean water will be one of the most important commodities for a community recovering from a disaster of this magnitude and I’m proud that today the Division is helping to provide hundreds of thousands of bottles of water for those who are suffering. We look forward to continuing to work in conjunction with our private-sector partners on ways to provide charitable donations to the Bahamas.”
On Monday, DeSantis said Florida is following the lead of the federal government in providing humanitarian assistance to the Bahamas, called the water donation a way of “supplementing” the federal relief effort.
He added that offers of assistance, such as troops from the Florida National Guard, have been declined during daily talks with the Trump administration.
“They’ve said they’ve got kind of a handle on how things are going, and basically I’ve been urged to pursue the course we’re doing,” DeSantis said.
Still, DeSantis and Moskowitz said the state likely will make other contributions along with donating the water.
“We are intimately involved in helping figure what are the unmet needs and where we can help,” Moskowitz said.
Moskowitz noted that even the best hurricane building codes were not developed for Dorian, which hit parts of the Bahamas with 185 mph sustained winds.
“This could have been us. And let’s be clear, it almost was us,” Moskowitz said.
John Rood, a former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas who has been appointed by DeSantis as the state’s “point person” in relief efforts, said the first step is working with Mission of Hope International to build transitional housing for Bahamians.
“There’s no doubt our neighbors in the Bahamas need our help and these donations will have a significant benefit to those who were most impacted by hurricane Dorian,” said Rood. “Moving forward, we will be working to establish transitional housing with funds from Florida based individuals and companies. For those Bahamians that wish to stay in their communities, these funds will help with their rebuilding efforts.”
Rood added that supplies should be going out next week, once details for the project are completed with Bahama’s National Emergency Management Agency.
“We don’t want to be going off in a direction that is not consistent with the Bahamas, with their plan,” Rood said.
(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.)