As Florida deals with a catastrophic, dangerous hurricane, it may have a financial storm to deal with.
The annual budget forecast released this week shows, despite an ongoing economic recovery, Florida is expected to bring in just enough money to meet its spending needs.
That forecast shows the state will have a surplus of just $52 million during the fiscal year that starts in July 2018. The new estimate does not take into account the potential effects that will come from Hurricane Irma.
In the past some have speculated hurricanes help the economy because of increased spending. But Amy Baker, the state economist whose office helps put together the forecast, says a look at previous hurricanes showed that the state wound up spending more as a result of the disaster.
The U.S. Navy says four ships are ready to assist with Hurricane Irma relief.
The U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Command said in a statement Friday that Adm. Phil Davidson ordered the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, the transport dock ship USS New Yorkand the assault ship USS Iwo Jima to be in position to provide humanitarian relief if requested.
The statement says the destroyer USS Farragut is already "conducting local operations" and has been ordered to join the group.
The ships are capable of providing medical support, maritime security and logistical support.
The operator of two nuclear power plants in Florida says the plants will be shut down well before Hurricane Irma makes landfall.
Florida Power and Light President Eric Silagy said Friday that the company will shut the Turkey Point and St. Lucie plants down 24 hours before the onset of hurricane-level winds. Turkey Point is located south of Miami in Homestead. St. Lucie is on the state's east coast.
Silagy says the two plants are among the strongest structures in the world and are encased in a 6-foot-thick (1.8 meters) cement structure reinforced by steel. The plants also have multiple safety systems and are elevated about 20 feet (6.1 meters) above sea level to protect against flooding and extreme storm surges.
Turkey Point took a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Silagy said officials "will not take any chances, and those plants will be secure."
Florida's theme parks are staying open until what seems to be the last moment before Hurricane Irma carves up the peninsula.
Universal Orlando has announced it is closing its parks Sunday, just ahead of when damaging winds should reach central Florida.
Universal Orlando says it's closing all three of its parks at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will remain closed through Monday. Officials said they anticipate reopening on Tuesday.
SeaWorld in Orlando and Busch Gardens, which is in Tampa, also announced plans to shut down at 5 p.m. Saturday and remain closed through Monday.
Officials at Walt Disney World in Orlando announced Friday afternoon that its parks will close on Saturday and remain closed through Monday.
At this point, all of these parks anticipate re-opening on Tuesday.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez says more than 660,000 residents of Miami-Dade County must evacuate and find hurricane-proof shelter as Irma bears down on Florida. The county plans to open 43 shelters with room for more than 100,000 people by Friday night.
That includes the homeless. The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust says more than 1,000 people live on the streets in Miami, and only 300 have been evacuated so far. Many are willingly moving to shelters, but some have to be detained using the 'Baker Act', a law which allows officers to hospitalize people with mental illness against their will.
The Associated Press was there as Miami police handcuffed one man to evacuate a waterfront park. Another man resisted until police threatened to hospitalize him instead.
Ron Book with the homeless trust says anybody who stays on the streets during this storm is "going to die."
A top U.S. homeland security adviser says President Donald Trump's administration wants some hurricane-ravaged areas to rebuild with potential flooding in mind.
Thomas Bossert told reporters Friday that officials are reconsidering Trump's executive order last month that rolled back President Obama's directive for flood plain buildings to adhere to tighter standards. Bossert said that people "need to build back smarter and stronger against flood plain concerns when we use federal dollars." He added that the administration will decide new standards over the next month or so.
Trump's order last month revoked Obama's directive requiring that such projects built with federal aid take rising sea levels into account. Trump suggested the predicted risks from sea level rise driven by climate change are overblown.
The Homeland Security Department is temporarily waiving federal restrictions on foreign ships' transportation of cargo in order to help distribute fuel to states and territories affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
In a statement Friday, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said, "This is a precautionary measure to ensure we have enough fuel to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure." The seven-day waiver specifically affects shipments of refined products, such as gasoline, in hurricane-affected areas.
The Jones Act prohibits such shipments between U.S. points aboard foreign vessels. The last such waiver was in December 2012, for petroleum products delivered after Hurricane Sandy.
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