Taking Stock of Hurricane Michael’s Widespread Devastation

Search and rescue personnel on the ground in Mexico Beach, Florida following Hurricane Michael.

Search and rescue personnel on the ground in Mexico Beach, Florida following Hurricane Michael. Gerald Herbert / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Mass. mayor arrested … testing out a mass vaccination plan in Minnesota … and N.Y. comptroller’s dismal report on MTA finances.

Good morning, it’s Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. Hurricane Michael leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup but scroll down for more from places like Fall River, Massachusetts (where a young mayor was arrested); New Orleans, Louisiana (where a local short-term rental study has been questioned); and Tacoma, Washington (where a Canadian pipeline explosion threatened fuel supplies for local buses).

HURRICANE MICHAEL | After ripping through the Florida panhandle on Wednesday as one of the four most powerful hurricanes on record to strike the United States, Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday as it moved to the northeast through the Carolinas. At least six people are confirmed dead and upwards of 1 million people across the Southeastern U.S. are without power. The focus of the disaster zone is along Florida’s so-called Forgotten Coast, where 155 mph winds—just short of Category 5 strength—essentially destroyed the community of Mexico Beach and brought widespread devastation elsewhere. In nearby Panama City, “apartment buildings are roofless, gas station awnings are twisted beyond recognition, businesses collapsed, metal posts as thick as tree trucks were folded in half, and billboards were blown onto homes or crushed cars,” according to The Washington Post. In nearby Wakulla County, 10-foot storm surge inundated coastal communities. “The water and the wind—it just came in and made a mess of everything,” St. Marks City Manager Zoe Mansfield told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Tore up a lot. Got into people’s homes. No one’s hurt. Everyone’s fine. It’s just a matter of it’s going to take weeks or months to get everything cleaned in town.” Further inland in southwest Georgia, nearly 130 state roads are closed due to fallen trees and at least 53 poultry houses were destroyed. [The Washington Post; Miami Herald; Tallahassee Democrat / Tallahassee.com; Valdosta Daily Times; Weather.com]

In other news ...

CITY HALLS | Mayor Jasiel Correia of Fall River, Massachusetts, was arrested on Thursday and is facing federal charges in an alleged scheme where prosecutors say the 26-year-old defrauded investors to pay for a "lavish lifestyle and political campaign" while claiming he was a successful tech entrepreneur. Correia pleaded not guilty and called the charges “bogus.” [WCBV] … A notable opponent of a proposed stadium in Boise, Idaho has been banned from entering City Hall after “provoking a ‘physical confrontation’ during a City Council meeting,” according to a city spokesman. [Idaho Statesman] …

GOVERNORS | Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said that he would not act “on claims that House Speaker Brian Bosma attempted to intimidate a former Statehouse intern who alleged a sexual encounter with him decades ago.” [The Indianapolis Star] … The abrupt resignation of a top aide to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy last week has roiled Trenton after it was reported that the aide had been investigated last year for sexual assault. [The New York Times] … Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is tapping the brakes on “the planned 10 percent rate increase by the insurance consortium that provides windstorm and hail coverage to the Texas Coast.” [Corpus Christi Caller Times] … Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has endorsed a ballot proposal that would revive horse racing in the state. [KTVB]

SHORT-TERM RENTALS | New restrictions on short-term rentals recently passed by the District of Columbia Council will prohibit services like Airbnb on far more rentals in the nation’s capital than most people thought, according to a report from D.C.’s chief financial officer. The CFO’s report says the new regulations could effectively outlaw 80-90 percent of all short-term rentals in the District. [Greater Greater Washington] … In New Orleans, economists are questioning the findings from a University of New Orleans study of short-term rentals in the city that have been regularly cited at public meetings. “This report is an extremely poor excuse for an economic analysis,” according to Jay Brinkmann, the former chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “If you wanted to put a report together that would maximize the potential perceived benefits of short term rentals, this was the way to do it. … The benefits are overstated, and they have ignored the costs.” [The Lens]

TRANSPORTATION | While natural gas supplies from Canada into Washington state are flowing again, a pipeline explosion in British Columbia this week that prompted calls for conserving supplies south of the border highlighted the risk that some transit agencies face with fleets powered by compressed natural gas. In Tacoma, Pierce Transit “was left to try slowly sipping natural gas to make a day’s supply last as long as possible.” [Crosscut] … New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s new report into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s long-term finances is pretty grim. The MTA, which is dealing with aging subway and commuter rail infrastructure and frustrated commuters, “faces its greatest challenge in decades.” [Gothamist] … San Antonio has adopted a pilot program regulating e-scooters. [KUT]

PUBLIC HEALTH | In Olmsted County, Minnesota, local and regional public health agencies tested their mass-vaccination plan on Thursday in case of an emergency contagion situation. [KIMT] … In an op/ed, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and Aakash Shah, an emergency physician at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, lay out three things the Garden State can do turn the tide of the opioid abuse epidemic. [Star Ledger / NJ.com]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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