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Exploring the effects of water on Central Florida and urgent calls to address policy and other barriers to change as we prepare for a supercharged upcoming storm season.

Editor's note: Impacts of rising water on Central Florida

Satellite Beach has been updating the city and its beaches in an effort to protect against flooding
Marian Summerall
Central Florida Public Media
Satellite Beach has been updating the city and its beaches in an effort to protect against flooding

Central Florida Public Media is exploring the impacts of climate change and rising water on our region.

This week, the team of journalists at Central Florida Public Media are rolling out the second installment of our flagship series Central Florida Seen & Heard but this time, instead of immigration, our focus is on rising water. Just days before the start of what’s expected to be one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, we’re taking a deep dive look at some of the impacts of our changing climate.

When planning this series, the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane season was top of mind for us here at Central Florida Public Media. Hurricanes Ian and Nicole brought historic flooding to the region that lasted weeks, even months, in some places, and highlighted the need for better flood mitigation and control in our neighborhoods. Our reporters met people across our coverage area who lost their homes, their businesses, and more, after those storms. And in our follow-up reporting since then, we found that many people are still dealing with damage from those storms. Ahead of this hurricane season, many are uncertain of what’s to come and if history may repeat itself once again.

This series comes on the heels of Governor Ron DeSantis signing into law last week legislation making climate change a lesser priority in the state. We take pride in producing trustworthy, independent journalism. And while we understand that climate change has become a contentious term, division IS NOT our goal. We live in a complex world and our aim is to provide you with fact-based information that informs your decision making.

A changing climate is affecting hurricanes, making storms stronger, and allowing them to rapidly intensify. Forecasters are predicting an extremely active storm season this year. And while climate change may be a driving force in increasing intensity of storms, other factors are at play increasing our region's risk of flooding again.

Our reporters uncovered outdated flood maps of the region that don’t show the full scope of flooding risks in Central Florida, and that historical data used to make decisions about flood protections may be irrelevant. We also explored how development may affect flooding, and how some residents are urging municipal and county leaders to act now. Another story looks at challenges of communicating storm risks to non-English speakers and what work is still ahead to make sure all of Central Florida receives and understands critical communication.

This series also looks at places that are taking active steps to mitigate the risk of rising waters. We also look at a new program aimed at addressing the trauma of a storm or flood event on our community’s youngest residents.

Here at Central Florida Public Media, we like to say that we are grounded in listening. As news director, I’m proud to say that’s not just a catchy tagline or phrase that we throw around. You have told us that these are issues that are important to you and critical to our region. We held several meetings with members of our content team trying to decide our focus, and during each meeting, discussions around flooding and what we’re hearing from people in our region found their way to the center stage. We are listening.

By the end of this series, we hope you understand the complicated factors that contribute to Central Florida’s flooding risks, and the urgency needed to address these issues and protect our communities from future flooding events. Our goal is to outline the facts and give you the context to make decisions about our future. Rising water will certainly be in our future. But with this knowledge and context we hope our audiences recognizes the urgency in taking action...and that our local leaders take the steps needed to keep our region and our environment thriving.

LaToya Dennis is news director & managing editor at Central Florida Public Media. She has been at the forefront of rethinking what news is and how to best deliver it to communities not traditionally well served by public radio. She holds both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University.
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