TALLAHASSEE (News Service of Florida) — 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.
Gov. 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.
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 during a news conference at FPL’s Command Center in West Palm Beach. “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.
DeSantis, who on Monday 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 Florida Emergency Management Director Jared 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 are people in these islands, in these settlements, who don’t want to leave and go to Nassau,” said Rood, a Jacksonville businessman who spent three days in the Bahamas after Dorian.
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.