On behalf of the ACEC Florida Staff and Officers, I want to personally thank our members for their outpouring of support for Meridith Glass, Director of Events, and her family. Immediately following the tragic loss of her husband last month, our headquarters support staff jumped into action, creating a GoFundMe account to raise money to help the Glass family in this time of need. I am happy to report that at the time of this message, we have raised over $108,000 for Meridith to help support her through this tough time. Times like this truly prove how close-knit and caring the Engineering Community is. Our members’ generosity is unparalleled, and your selflessness inspires us all. THANK YOU to everyone who contributed; it is immeasurable how much this means to the Glass family.
As we deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, we are reminded of our mission as Engineers to protect the health and well-being of our society. Even though Idalia narrowly avoided densely populated areas, the flooding and wind damage in Steinhatchee and Perry caused by this storm will still be felt for years. Steinhatchee was the location of the storm’s landfall, a town near and dear to my heart. This small community boasts of some of the best inshore and offshore fishing in Florida and is one of the friendliest communities I have ever encountered. Having spent a lot of time over the years in Steinhatchee, I can attest to the willingness of its people to help one another in times of trouble.
Flooding is not a new concept to Steinhatchee residents. Heavy periods of rainfall often cause flooding, as does upstream flooding from the Steinhatchee River. Most long-time residents I have met over the years have experienced this type of damage, and they jump into action to repair it immediately after the flood waters subside. As one of my friends once told me, “You don’t own a house in Steinhatchee unless you are prepared to get your hands dirty because your house will get flooded sooner or later.”
As an avid fisherman and Civil Engineer, I have witnessed the transformation of Steinhatchee’s infrastructure over the last two decades. When I first started fishing in Steinhatchee, most older structures were built at-grade in recorded flood zones. Many structures were modular homes or other types of buildings that were not rated to withstand the impacts of a major hurricane. However, over the last two decades, every time I traveled to Steinhatchee to fish for redfish or go scalloping, I noticed more and more new residential dwellings built on concrete piles high above the projected flood elevations. These structures were constructed in accordance with current building codes, and care was taken to design them to be more resilient. Even small residential structures like decks or overlook platforms are now built above the flood elevation. Based on conversations with friends who live in Steinhatchee, the new elevated structures throughout the community experienced far less damage from the storm than the older slab-on-grade houses.
This transformation of the State’s coastline is happening everywhere you look across Florida. Our State is leading the Country in developing and implementing infrastructure resiliency. All you have to do is attend an ACEC Florida conference, and you will hear numerous presentations about how the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is changing how we design infrastructure to be more resilient. FDOT has been focused on infrastructure resiliency for a long time, even before “resiliency” became a fashionable term. As an example, those members who attended the Geotechnical and Materials Engineers Conference (GMEC) last year heard a presentation from Andrew Newman, P.E. (District 7 Geotechnical Materials Engineer) and Kisan Patel, P.E. (District 1/7 Geotechnical Engineer) talking about the FDOT’s response and aftermath review of the Sanibel Causeway bridge failure that occurred during Hurricane Ian. What was most interesting to me about that presentation was the numerous forensic engineering evaluations that the Department performs after these types of natural disasters so that our coastal infrastructure can be designed to be more resilient to future storm events.
In closing, I am reminded that Rome was not built in a day. While we have many improvements to our infrastructure that are critically needed to strengthen our shoreline against future natural disasters, I am amazed at all of the resiliency improvements that the FDOT, Water Management Districts, and local governments have been making throughout my career. I am proud to live in a State that is tackling these challenges head-on, not just waiting for them to occur.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida is the voice of Florida’s engineering industry, representing more than 350 consulting engineering companies, specializing in all disciplines in seven regions throughout Florida.
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