Florida residents experienced intense wind on Tuesday, prompting heightened tornado monitoring. Preliminary data from the National Weather Service as of Wednesday morning revealed the occurrence of eight tornadoes across the state. Between 12:17 and 1:59 pm, the initial seven tornadoes were reported in the Florida panhandle, followed by an additional tornado near St. Petersburg at 9:23 pm, characterized as a brief EF-0 touchdown.
There have been several reported injuries in Florida so far, though no fatalities yet, and many residents left picking up the pieces of damaged or destroyed homes. Meanwhile, this same storm system led to at least four deaths in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina on Tuesday. Moreover, at least 890,000 households are now without power, mainly in the eastern US.
In the US, local and state governments have historically seen investments in emergency management—measures to protect the people from floods, fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters—as unnecessary expenses. Instead, they point to climate change to explain the increasing frequency of disasters—or, if they view climate change as a hoax, to “natural phenomena” or “acts of God”—without addressing their own lack of preparation.
But recent stats from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration underline the urgent need for action. Climate change acts as a catalyst, intensifying the frequency and severity of specific extreme weather events. Notably, it heightens vulnerability to drought, extends wildfire seasons in Western states, and increases the likelihood of extreme, heavy rainfall in the eastern states. Furthermore, rising sea levels worsen hurricane storm surge flooding, compounding the challenges posed by these billion-dollar disasters.
Last year, the United States encountered 28 distinct weather and climate disasters, each with a price tag of at least 1 billion dollars, placing 2023 at the top spot for the highest count of billion-dollar disasters. In addition to the economic toll, 2023 proved to be a deadly year, with at least 492 direct or indirect fatalities recorded, ranking it as the 8th highest number of disaster-related fatalities in the contiguous US since 1980.
All this shows that extreme weather phenomena are happening with increased frequency and deadly force. But we must stress that capitalist development is the source of our changing climate, both the disasters it brings and the bourgeois state’s lack of preparation for them. The absence of comprehensive planning leads to our people paying with their lives. For the bourgeois state, the life of the people is only analyzed from the framework of a “cost-benefit analysis,” as is the official practice of all federal US agencies. This framework is why local and state governments work to minimize expenses in the budget for emergency management. These budgets consolidate the criminal underfunding of emergency services and hoist all responsibility on the individual. In each disaster, the big contractors rub their greedy hands together, hungry for the chance to cash out and leave the working people exposed to the next one. Workers face a hostile state before, during, and after the supposed disaster relief.