Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Wictionary says that this essentially intends to convey a sentiment that "In hindsight, things are obvious that were not obvious from the outset." If you have lived such a charmed life to have never experienced that moment when a past (in)decision haunts you, you are indeed fortunate. In such instances, it is valid to think through what one might have done differently. 
The news this week is full of Ian, and the tragedy of this particular landfill will fill volumes. The destruction is severe, widespread, and frankly devastating. There will eventually be some accounting involved, and the value of destruction will be assessed. The President has already opined that Ian will take his place on the list of "the worst in U.S. history," according to Reuters. By "worst," he probably refers to financial cost
That is a bit misleading. This list is about monetary loss. I find no fault with that as a measure of severity. It is not, however, the only way one might look at severity. Another is the death toll. Ian will not likely make the list of "the 30 Deadliest U.S. Mainland Hurricanes."  The lowest figure on that list is the 53 fatalities from the "North Carolina" Hurricane of 1883. There are several on that list in the 19th century, and certainly, prediction methods have evolved since. 
On the "Deadliest" list there are also several from the 20th century, and the severity is apparent. Names like Camile (1969) and Audrey (1957) are recent enough to have been mentioned during my lifetime. However, their death tolls were in the hundreds. But, I have visited the memorial to the approximately 8,000 who perished in Galveston, Texas in 1900. I drove into the aftermath and recovery from Katrina (2005) in which approximately 1,200 perished. 
The financial cost of storms is notable, but the human cost is devastating. To keep things in perspective, several on this list resulted in death tolls well below the Indonesian soccer tragedy on October 1, 2022 (174). However, the most recent reporting on Florida fatalities alone, 67 according to CNN on Sunday, October 2, 2022, already places Ian on the "30 Deadliest" list. 
I have lived through and anguished over several on that list. I remember Irma and Harvey (September 2017). I frankly bid Irma farewell, noting I had never liked her. I have personal experience with Ivan, Dennis, Sally, and others. I have headed into the aftermath of Katrina and Michael. I have seen more destruction and desolation than I care to remember. The common denominator of every storm is destruction and death. 
I have repeatedly reminded people to prepare and to have a plan. See Time to Prepare (May 2017). I firmly believe that these things will continue to strike as they have for eons. Long before there was Florida or Floridians, it is very likely there were tropical cyclones. 

On September 22, 2022 (Thursday), I started to take notice of Invest 98L. Over the years, I have come to watch the tropics faithfully. The National Hurricane Center page is programmed to open automatically each time I start Google Chrome. That disturbance looked further south than I am comfortable with. My bias is that storms that form or track far south tend to threaten the gulf states, and they concern me. The spaghetti models that day predicted multiple potentials for 98L, which would become Ian. 

At that stage, on Thursday the 22nd, there was discussion of 98L being "the next named storm," and a few referred to the potential for it to be Hermine. However, another system formed first, was named Hermine, and headed north. Invest 98L(2022) became Ian, as a tropical storm, late on Friday, September 23, 2022. By that time, much of Florida became worried. The various predictions implicated much of the United States Gulf Coast, though there were potentials for Mexico and Central America. 

We are embarrassed by it, but we nonetheless are not shy about praying for storms to make landfall somewhere other than our own homes. Friday, we were worried about Ft. Myers, with some concern for Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa. The predictions vacillated throughout the weekend. There were moments in which each of those offices looked to be in the greatest danger. The new week dawned, and concern continued. There were many moments in which I was all but certain that Tampa/St. Pete would be ground zero. I was wrong, but I was not alone.

While Ian will not likely be among the deadliest, there will be deaths. Lee County, where Ian roared ashore, is reporting multiple deaths already. Further away A man died in east Florida (Volusia) trying to drain his swimming pool as the storm advanced. An eleven-year-old evacuee died after falling from a 19th-floor condominium balcony in Panama City. In preparation, evacuation, devastation, and restoration there are threats to safety and well-being. The Governor announced 800 search and rescue personnel in the field immediately after the storm passed. There have been miraculous recoveries, and yet many still await news. I remember in the days after Ivan there was a persistent noise of chain saws and helicopters. 

There will be stories of angst and alarm that end in triumph. A woman took to Twitter last week to find her mother following the storm. The story is sentimental and ends happily. However, the trauma of searching for a loved one is aptly illustrated. She describes how she "never felt more helpless in my life," as she lost contact and awaited news. The mother had previously weathered storms there and was confident she need not evacuate. She was wrong, in retrospect.

There will also be stories of heroism. There is the story of a driver venturing to drive across flowing water. The car was swept away. In what has been described as "kismet," the first responder on the scene just happened to have "200 feet of rope in his patrol vehicle." Ten deputies reportedly formed a chain, depended on that rope, and rescued the driver.
The point of retrospection is to review a situation with the benefit of 20/20. Some lessons seem reasonably clear. First, these monsters are unpredictable. You can rely greatly on there being a threat, but the precise point of landfall may not be where they predict. If you are (as we say in Florida) "in the cone," you must be prepared and attentive. If you are ordered to evacuate, do so. If you evacuate, head inland. An acquaintance evacuated Ian from Tampa and ran to Naples. From bad to worse in terms of the ultimate threat.
Second, the strength of these storms is difficult to predict. The victims of many storms have learned this the hard way. I recall Katrina, Michael, and more in this particular. If it is predicted to make landfall as a "2," it might, and your decision to stay may be validated. If that prediction is wrong and it lands as a "4," you may not be around to validate or even explain the decision to stay. These storms are unpredictable and dangerous.
Third, help will not come quickly in some cases. When the storm strength exceeds safe parameters, the 911 operators will likely answer your call. They will not, however, send help. Those first responders will be hunkered down somewhere to ride out the assault. They will venture out as soon as they safely can, but in the onslaught, you will likely be on your own. As conditions change, as situations worsen, you may call out for help fruitlessly. There will be heroism, but you cannot count on it for your survival. Get out, head inland, and get somewhere out of the cone even if that means sleeping in your car at a rest stop, truck stop, or parking lot.
Fourth, help may not be as rapid as you hope afterward. The emergency teams will come. Ice, water, food will come. But you are on your own for the immediate aftermath. In Paradise, they warn "the first 72 is on you." In other words, don't count on assistance for three days. Be prepared to care for yourself for three days. That sounds easy, but with all you might face in the aftermath, perhaps not so much. When do you buy the canned pasta, soup, and similar that can sustain you after a storm? May, June at the latest. When the monster is in the sea, and your home is in the cone, you may struggle with supplies, fuel, and more. Personal hint, take it with you when you leave, and bring it back when you return. The stores may be of little help in the first hours/days. You must prepare in advance.
Fifth, and last for today, there is peril in advance, during, and following the storm. Tools are dangerous, traffic is dangerous, trees are dangerous, flowing water is . . . you get the point. The awareness and focus is necessary from beginning to end. Be prepared, remain conscious of your surroundings and threats, and remain safe. Throughout these threats, emergency rooms will be burdened and first responders will be stretched. Strive to remain safe and well in the broadest terms (watch safety in your retreat, return, and recovery).
I am pleased to see the OJCC offices reopening on October 3, 2022. There were many closures, trial and mediation cancellations, and process interruptions. We will recover this little corner of the world that is workers' compensation litigation. There may be delays, challenges, and frustrations. Work with us as we work with you to recover.
Daytona remains closed October 3 as we await the restoration of electricity. Ft. Myers is also without power, and that area is profoundly devastated. It may be some time before things there approach "normal." If you are in need of assistance with your workers' compensation litigation in Ft. Myers, feel free to reach out to david.langham@doah.state.fl.us. I ask that you copy opposing parties or counsel on such communications, but will strive to find you answers and assistance as we progress through this challenge.
By Judge David Langham
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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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