After Hurricane Ian, a low-lying Florida city starts to rebuild. Should it?
Hurricane Ian, the Category 1 hurricane that made landfall in Lake City, Florida, on Sept. 2, is causing one of the most visible and controversial questions the city is facing right now: Should it rebuild?
As the area begins to rebuild—the city is still waiting on the Florida Department of Transportation approval for an interstate bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, which is vital for getting supplies into and out of the city—people who live in and around Lake City are starting to have their say.
“One of the misconceptions about our town is that it’s destroyed, so that’s the main reason people are here,” said Dr. Bob Smith, a dentist in Lake City who lives outside of town and was the first to speak out against the proposal to rebuild. “That is the reason we moved here in the first place. We’re coming back because we love this place.”
And now, Smith and a group of seven residents are planning a town hall meeting for April 3, a week after the most recent reopening of schools, after the hurricane and the hurricane-related debris cleanup. On Tuesday, Smith plans to hold his town hall at the city hall in Lake City.
“I’m going to ask the mayor, the city council to reconsider that,” he said. “How come they built it in the first place? Is it because people didn’t want to move out and leave? They didn’t want to lose their homes that they built in and around here?”
What makes Dr. Smith’s fight over rebuilding more difficult is the fact he’s not from Lake City. He’s a resident of Melbourne, Florida, a suburb just outside of Lake City.
Still, if you’ve never heard of Lake City before, let me give you a quick history lesson: On Sept. 8, 2004, while standing in line for a Subway sandwich at a grocery store, Andrew “Andy” Volpe went through a series of near-death experiences, including losing his arm, his mind, and his legs. The next day, a fire destroyed the power plant that had served as his home for the past several years. Then, the area began flooding.
Volpe’s family moved to Lake City a year after the storm because they believed the area was safer and because they were close to his children’s school, which was on the other side of the