Little sympathy for Floridians

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2005

For residents of hurricane-weary Florida, then-tropical storm Arlene was the only thing anyone was talking about Thursday evening as I checked in to my hotel in Pensacola.

I had been working in L.A. (Lower Alabama) for a few days last week and was on my way home.

Every television in the hotel bar was tuned to the weather channel – in the Deep South, apparently the only channels they receive are the Weather Channel and Fox News. Small wonder. Last year the state was slammed by about 40 hurricanes or something like that. Things like that make folks a little jumpy.

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The news reports said it looked like Arlene would come ashore on Saturday evening, somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana. Floridians were apparently betting on their state taking the hit.

&uot;Trying to beat the hurricane out, huh,&uot; the desk clerk said Friday morning as I was checking out. The attendant at the rental car return at Pensacola Airport said the same thing.

&uot;We got hit pretty hard last year,&uot; she said.

&uot;I guess that’s the price you pay for living in paradise,&uot; I responded. I was serious, too. I’m getting a little tired of hearing about the poor, wretched Floridians having to put up with the hurricanes.

I don’t mean to be insensitive – my wife says it’s just my nature – but you know something, everyone in the United States knows that Florida gets hit by a lot of hurricanes. Yet people are still flocking there in, well, I guess, flocks, to live in the land of year-around sunshine, theme parks and beautiful beaches.

While Floridians may be tired of the hurricanes, I’m tired of the rest of us schmuck taxpayers having to fork over billions of dollars in aid every time a storm blows through Florida. It’s not fair.

Dr. Thomas Sowell, a newspaper columnists and perhaps the only person in the world who is even less sensitive than I, wrote a piece last year that I thought was bizarre at the time but appears to be making more and more sense.

Everybody in Florida knows that there is a great likelihood that a couple hurricanes are going to come ashore each year and tear shingles off their roofs, knock out their electricity, destroy their mobile homes, flatten their boats and possibly even kill them. Despite this, they all stay. There is nothing preventing any of them from packing up and abandoning Florida.

The only reason they don’t is that they know the rest of us are going to come to their aid and fork over our hard-earned money to reshingle their roofs, send crews to restore their power, buy them new mobile homes, mend their boats and bury their dead – all at no charge.

As Sowell pointed out, if people want to live in Florida – or any beautiful coastal area for that matter that is at risk of hurricane damage – they should have to buy their own insurance. I read somewhere recently that some outrageous percentage of the people in this country live in coastal counties. The reason is that they know the rest of us are going to bale them out if something bad happens.

If they were responsible for paying for their own cleanup, only those who could afford the outrageous insurance premiums would live there and the rest of us could use our tax dollars for things like paying for armor for the Humvees our servicemen and women drive in Iraq or helping Americans whose jobs have been out-sourced to India or China. In other words, helping people who are the victims of forces that are beyond their control.

Hurricanes are an act of God. However, we all know by now that God is going to act in that manner from time to time and we also know where it’s likely to occur. Living there basically amounts to defying that power. Anyone who does deserves what they get. There’s a gigantic country out there, people, where that kind of thing doesn’t or rarely happens.

The next time I see Jeb Bush on Fox News with his sleeves rolled up picking up storm debris and pleading for help – likely half-a-dozen times between now and November – I’m changing the channel.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at