News Columns & Blogs

A disaster waiting to happen

Disaster never seems to be far away, whether man-made or natural.

Florida may be paradise, but it’s an uneasy paradise, sitting in the cross hairs of hurricanes blowing up from the Caribbean or sweeping across from the Atlantic Ocean.

This week, the Manatee evacuation map was revised, expanding the areas where residents would have to get out of their homes and seek shelter during a big storm.

Just a day later, forecasters were saying this hurricane season will be much more lively than last year.

We’ve been lucky since those horrendous seasons in 2004 and ’05. We can hope the forecasters are wrong, but it would be unwise to write their warnings off as just more crying wolf.

The big reason for a more active storm season would be the retreat of El Niño, which is credited with shearing the tops off storm after storm in 2009.

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A man-made disaster nobody saw coming is the Chinese drywall problem, which surfaced in Manatee and elsewhere in early 2009.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued interim guidelines saying tainted drywall should be removed from homes for safety reasons.

On first blush, that seemed like a “duh” recommendation, considering the stuff corrodes electrical wiring and copper pipes, and smells bad.

But it was significant, because the recommendation carried the weight of the federal government.

Less than a week passed before a federal judge ruled that all drywall — not just that made in China — should be removed from seven Virginia homes, “gutted down to the studs,” as reporter Duane Marsteller put it.

The ruling goes beyond the federal interim ruling.

For homeowners who have tainted drywall in their homes, the judge’s ruling has to be some comfort.

Unfortunately, the companies that would have to pay are based in the Peoples Republic of China. They seem to have been less than exemplary in trying to right a wrong.

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On a brighter note, the Tour de Ranch event at Lakewood Ranch, set for April 24, seems on track to collect a lot of bicycles for homeless people. After our first story ran this week, my phone has stayed busy with calls from folks who want to help out.

Pick up a copy of Monday’s paper for a close-up look at some of the good, but down-on-their-luck folks who received bikes from Tour de Ranch last year. The event made a difference.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at (941) 745-7021.