Florida has gone almost ten years since receiving a direct hit from a hurricane. The last time a big storm touched our shores was when Hurricane Wilma made landfall in late October 2005. That's an awfully long (though not necessarily scientifically strange) gap for canes in Florida. Since then, the world and the state have changed considerably in ways that could directly affect how we experience hurricanes here and in ways that make you think, Wow, it really has been a long time.
Just in time for the first official week of hurricane season, let's revisit what life in Florida was like last time a hurricane warning affected the Sunshine State.
The Razr was on the cutting edge of technology, and that wasn't even a stupid pun.
Photo by OptoScalpel
Then: The hot phone on the market was the Motorola Razr.
Now: iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones are de facto.
The result: The idea of your phone losing connection or battery power is not just an inconvenience anymore; it's outright modern torture. There are Miamians who have not gone a day without their iPhone since it came out in 2007. How will they manage in a post-storm Florida?
Then: The city had a growing but modest skyline.
Now: Miami's skyline has exploded.
The result: Wikipedia has a list of the 64 tallest buildings in Miami (and that's just in the City of Miami). Forty-one of those buildings were completed after the last time a hurricane hit South Florida. Granted, all of them were built to withstand fierce storms, but they're still vulnerable to potential damage. It also means increasing numbers of people are living in evacuation zones that could end up taking the brunt of damage.
Courtesy of the University of Miami Rosentiel School
Then: Sea levels were rising.
Now: Sea levels are still rising, but even faster.
The result: The University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has been keeping track of sea levels off Virginia Key since 1996. The average tides have risen steadily, but those rises are increasing. Over the past 10 years, sea levels have risen .47 inches a year, but that's accelerated to 1.27 inches a year in the past five years alone. The handy chart above clearly marks where sea levels were during Hurricane Wilma and how far they've trended upward tilll the end of 2014. Of course, this means a hurricane has a greater likelihood of causing flooding.
Then: Barack Obama was in his first year as a junior senator from Illinois.
Now: He is president.
The possible result: If a storm hits and the federal response is less than 100 percent optimal, someone will make a "Barack Obama doesn't care about _____ people" joke on Twitter and lots of Republicans will retweet it.
Destruction left after Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida in October 2005.
Then: Your mom wasn't on Facebook (it was available only to students and a select few others), and Twitter and Instagram didn't exist
Now: Social media is now a force of nature unto itself.
The possible result: Florida has never gone through a hurricane that has necessitated its own hashtag. Floridians have never posted. #stormselfies or artfully filtered photographs of destruction. Granted, if a storm comes through that's strong enough to knock out cell-phone and internet service, the difference may not be that major. But if a minor storm hits, prepare for a social media onslaught. The upside is that once services are restored, you'll be able to inform every single person you've ever met that you're indeed still alive.
Then: Florida was the fourth most populous state in the union.
Now: Florida is now the third most populous state, and roughly 2 million more people live in the state.
The possible result: That 2-million-person gain is just the net change. There's no telling exactly how many Floridians have never gone through a hurricane (either here or elsewhere), and that means there are millions of hurricane newbies in the state who may not know the best way to prepare, may overly freak out, or may not evacuate when told. Low levels of hurricane knowledge and experience could spell unnecessary doom.
You can even name the least famous Kardashian now, can't you?
Photo courtesy Disney | ABC Television Group's Flickr
Then: Very few people knew what a Kardashian was. Kim was just someone who showed up occasionally in the background of Paris Hilton paparazzi shots.
Now: Everyone knows more than they ever needed to about the Kardashians whether they want to or not.
The possible result: Um, you'll have something to talk if the power goes out?
Then: The total cost of Hurricane Wilma's damage: $29.4 billion.
Now: The estimated cost of a Category 4 storm hitting downtown Miami alone: $125 billion.
The possible result: That's also roughly five times the cost of the total damage of Hurricane Andrew. Miami has become a glitzier, more densely packed place, and that means there are a lot more things to destroy.
Then: The Miami Hurricanes were ranked seventh in the AP poll when Wilma hit and would rise to third in the following weeks before finishing the 2005 season in ninth place.
Now: The Miami Hurricanes have never been ranked that high since, save for two weeks at number seven in 2013.
The possible result: Is there a no-hurricane curse on the Miami Hurricanes? Actually, let's pretend there's not. We don't want people finding a reason to celebrate a hurricane.
Is this ringing any bells for anyone?
Photo courtesy Universal Pictures
Then: The number one movie at the box office the day Wilma hit was Doom, an adaptation of the videogame, starring Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson.
Now: Not a single person alive remembers that movie.
The possible result: We should really hope a hurricane doesn't interfere with our ability to see Jurassic World.
Then: Cuban and American relations were still deeply frozen.
Now: They're thawing.
The possible result: Aid from Cuba? Actually, in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit, Cuba offered to send 1,600 medics and 83 tons of medical supplies to Louisiana. America said no, thanks. In 2008, while Cuba was reeling from damage from hurricanes Ike and Gustav, America offered $5 million in aid. Cuba said no, thanks. The freeze is still thawing, but it would be interesting to see what would happen with those relations if a major storm hit either nation this summer.
In Miami Beach, post-Hurricane Wilma
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Then: "Florida Man" news stories were not yet a hot meme.
Now: "Florida Man" news stories are the undying meme.
The definite result: We're telling you now: If a devastating storm hits Florida, New Times will tell all media outlets to cool it with the poking-fun-of-Florida shit for at least two weeks while we recover from the tragedy, and shame any outlet that dares even try.
Then: Britney Spears was not yet a tragic figure who had risen from the ashes. The Miami Heat hadn't won a single NBA championship. Lindsay Lohan was a promising young actress. The Huffington Post had been around only a few months, and BuzzFeed wasn't a thing. Iconic shows such as 30 Rock, Mad Men, Glee, Breaking Bad, and Parks and Recreation hadn't even premiered. Sarah Palin wasn't even governor of Alaska yet. All four Golden Girls were alive. Only Massachusetts had legal same-sex marriage. Wayne Huizenga still owned the Dolphins. And Netflix wasn't streaming anything.
Now: Things are very different.
The possible result: You'll feel very, very old if you say, "Well, last time I went through a hurricane..."