It seemed like I had abandoned ship. While Hurriance Dorian was playing havoc with the Bahamas and the eastern seaboard, we were sitting in Amsterdam getting a lesson on how a small nation can be so ahead of its time.
Citrus County and Florida fortunately survived the wrath of Dorian. The main impact was an absurd run on gasoline, bottled water sales at Walmart and the ratings of the Weather Channel.
But the fear is real. What happened at Mexico Beach in the Panhandle and Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas this past week is the new ferocious reality.
If Citrus County was hammered by such a storm, the communities of Homosassa, Chassahowitzka, Crystal River and Inglis/Yankeetown would be flattened.
The remains of Ozello would be found in Rock Crusher Canyon.
It was only coincidental that our vacation plans to the Netherlands came at a time when Florida and Citrus County faced the possibility of getting slammed with more wind and water than it knew what to do with.
The people of the Netherlands have been dealing with the problem for more than 500 years, and they have adopted infrastructure investments that effectively deal with the dilemma.
Flat like Florida and below sea-level in many areas, the farmers in the Netherlands developed the concept of using windmills and dikes to hold back the water.
In the beginning, these were poor farmers who were fighting for survival. It was an act of survival civic-mindedness where these rural people came together and worked for the main public purpose — keeping their heads above water.
They dedicated large spaces of land that would be used for holding the water. At the same time they built the windmills and pumps to move the water from one area to another.
No electricity. No private utiliities. No trucks or vehicles. Just industrious people who wanted to survive.
No country can fight off the brutality of a hurricane, but the Dutch proved they could survive with the high-water problem.
In places like the Citrus County coastline, we are facing the same dilemma. I’m not suggesting windmills are the answer, but there is an answer that can be realized if we use the industriousness of our people and our joint resources.
The city of Miami already has water in the streets when they have a full moon and high tide. In Citrus County, floodwaters have washed over U.S. 19 on numerous occasions over the past few decades.
Every year we sit around arguing about global warming and rising tides is another year we have lost searching for solutions. FEMA, the federal agency in charge of flood protection, is now implementing new building rules in our county that will raise the height of all buildings in coastal areas.
FEMA exercises control with a heavy hammer. Insurance companies, local municipalities and banks will not be able to ignore the new regulations.
That is the federal government’s punitive approach to dealing with the problem. The other option is for communities to work together to figure out other strategies and to use our collective resources to implement the changes.
Our current approach is to watch floodwaters ravage communities and then utilize the federal flood insurance program to rebuild. The alternative is to visit the Netherlands and see what they’ve done.
Here’s a side benefit. The citizens of the Netherlands are proud of their government. They say nice things about it. Yes, they even pay higher taxes than we do.
But the government worked with citizens and industry to find real solutions that protect their collective quality of life.
We might consider trying to work together for a change.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.