A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in Florida and the Caribbean, a town is being rebuilt. It is a microcosm of the American hurricane story and a test of a key assumption: that if people are willing to put their lives on the line, they will rebuild even if it means rebuilding on a scale that matches the scale of the original disaster.
A new report released on Tuesday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that this assumption, or its opposite, is simply not the case. The state of Florida, after all, is not alone in the sense that it has built itself into an island: that is a feature of every American state and sometimes it has even driven a state to a second-tier status, like the one that has become New Jersey.
The report paints a picture of a town that is still struggling to recover from its peak in the year following the hurricane. Its residents have not yet seen their homes completely restored, but many have seen the improvements made to their neighborhoods. As of this writing, some of the areas that were destroyed by the hurricane are finally being rebuilt. The town of West Palm Beach did get a major flood and its economy is not nearly as good as it was before Irma struck, which left the city without the resources to help with recovery. The town is being rebuilt at a cost of $1.35 billion, but it is a fraction of the $16 billion that the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid to help the state after the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also paying the towns that have received FEMA money to help with their reconstruction, and about half of that money will go to West Palm Beach. So far in July, the town will have rebuilt the town’s roads and sidewalks, repaired sewer lines and made repairs to its drainage, and some of their infrastructure will have been improved. (West Palm Beach’s mayor, Ed Smith, said at a news conference on Tuesday that in the future, FEMA will pay for all the repairs that have been made on the city’s roads.)
If you look around the rest of the south Florida mainland, you will notice that the recovery has been just as intense, if not more intense, in places farther distant from Irma than the south Florida peninsula itself, as well as more than a decade ago after Hurricanes Gustav and Hugo tore