Joe Henderson: No time for politics with Hurricane Michael on its way - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: No time for politics with Hurricane Michael on its way

Politics seems so trivial in times like the Florida Panhandle is about to experience with Hurricane Michael. Petty red and blue arguments are out of place when a storm like this threatens everything and everyone in its path.

If you’re a Democrat and intend to vote with vigor for Bill Nelson to the U.S. Senate, you still should be rooting for his election opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to carefully and successfully manage this horrible situation in the days ahead.

Same goes for Republicans who support Ron DeSantis for Governor. I sure hope they’re wishing for his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, to be a steady and effective leader in this crisis. If it costs your man a few votes, at least you can be consoled by the fact it also might have saved some lives.

Only the most cynical and selfish person would think otherwise.

There is an appropriate time to question how leaders stepped up during a storm like this, but for the next few days, everyone just needs to be a Floridian. Think we’re up to it?

I hope we are.

But here is a reality: Hurricane Michael likely will cause catastrophic damage, and that can’t be fixed overnight. When Hurricane Irma blew through Tampa last year, some people went many days without power. There were flooded streets. Fallen trees and large limbs blocked some roads and it took a while to get them all clear.

Grocery stores had near-empty shelves for many days after the storm.

But as Floridians, we had each other and that’s how we got through it all — well, that, peanut butter, Chunky soup, and the stockpile from the local ABC store you safely stashed away.

At my home, power was out for a few days but people on the other side of the street had lights. So, you know what a neighbor did? She allowed us to run a long extension cord from her outdoor outlet to our house to keep the refrigerator going.

A small thing maybe, but it made life a little bit easier in a trying time.

Random acts of kindness like that will be in high demand in the next few days.

Charitable agencies will be looking for contributions, and I’m sure Floridians — and thousands of people from other states — will step up. But thank the workers, too.

I think one of the great things we see in this country is when workers from power companies all over the country head into a disaster zone to get the lights back on as quickly as possible. They’re working extra-long days away from their families and the lives they know just to help strangers get back on their feet.

If and when scoundrels try to take advantage of a natural disaster with price-gouging, looting, or bogus insurance claims, thank law enforcement officials when they make these mopes pay for their behavior. We had a FEMA rep show up at my house months after Irma hit to process the claim we made for our roof and other damage.

One problem: We didn’t have any significant damage and we hadn’t filed a claim. But somebody had our address and other information and was also trying to bill the government under our name for staying several weeks in a local hotel.

Storms like Michael are just the price we pay for living in Florida, and some bad people will try to take advantage of that. As we always find out though, the good outnumber the bad by a lot.

What’s about to happen here isn’t red or blue.

If somebody in authority really messes up, there will be time before the election to deal with that. But for now, just remember that Hurricane Michael isn’t red and isn’t blue, and that means we’re all in this together.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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