Sep 28, 2022 - Podcasts

Hurricane Ian slams Florida

Hurricane Ian’s not expected to make landfall in Florida until this afternoon, but the impact of this Category 4 storm is being felt already across a huge swath of the state. From flooding in Florida’s southernmost tip of Key West, to tornados in Broward County, and wind gusts already kicking up this morning in Tampa.

  • Plus, the White House hosts its first summit on hunger in more than 50 years. How food delivery services like DoorDash are playing a role.

Guests: Axios' Ben Montgomery and Margaret Harding McGill.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, September 28.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the White House hosts its first summit on hunger in more than fifty years… how food delivery services are playing a role.

But first: a catastrophic hurricane threatens Florida – that’s today’s One Big Thing

NIALA: Hurricane Ian’s not expected to make landfall in Florida until this afternoon, but the impact of this catastrophic Category 4 storm is being felt already across a huge swath of the state. From flooding in Florida’s southern most tip of Key West - to tornados in Broward County - and wind gusts already kicking up this morning in Tampa. Ian already wiped out power across all of Cuba on Tuesday. The massive storm is the ninth of this hurricane season. Axios’ Ben Montgomery is at home in Tampa. Hey Ben. How are you doing?

BEN MONTGOMERY: Hanging in there. Thanks.

NIALA: You know, when I think about this, as our listeners know I'm from Miami. It takes eight hours to drive out of the state of Florida when you're from Miami. The idea that this storm is affecting everywhere from Key West to Tampa Bay and the Atlantic Coast, that's how big the storm is?

BEN: Yeah, it's massive. I mean, if you look at the thing on the satellite, it easily consumes half the state of Florida. This is a big storm, 400 miles wide.

NIALA: And this is also a slow moving storm. How long could this go on?

BEN: A couple of days, you know, they're expecting it sometime on Thursday after it makes landfall Wednesday night, sometime on Thursday to make turn to head more toward the Orlando area after making landfall. I think around the border of Lee and Charlotte County's, It could be with us a couple of days. You know, Tampa, Tampa Bay sits right on the north of that. But I think right now we are, my neighborhood, people who live along the Hillsborough River and along upper Tampa Bay, we are very grateful. It's unfortunate for our friends to the south, but we're very thankful that this storm appears to be making landfall south of us because that saves us from what could have been a massive storm surge. They were predicting anywhere from seven to ten feet in storm surge in the Tampa Bay area. So we've dodged a bullet with this one.

NIALA: Ben, can you just explain the storm surge aspect of this and the fact that this is actually possibly a danger for both coasts?

BEN: Yeah, well, everywhere there's a tributary through south of the storm, which as we know, you know, the Everglades are down there and they serve and have long served as a natural protector against hurricanes. But, every tributary, you know, water is flowing off of the peninsula its flowing down toward each coast. And so depending on how a a hurricane approaches a tributary, water can go one of two directions that go back up or it can come out. And when storms push water up into tributaries, well, everyone who lives sort of in the basin in the region where, you know, where the water drains into those tributaries, then they stand the risk of facing storm surge.

We've been building our homes higher for many decades now, but there's still lots and lots of properties that are prone to major floods with surges like this and forecasters, meteorologists, experts tell us that, you know, that's the biggest killer from hurricanes it's flood waters and storm surge versus the high speed winds. So, what we're looking at this morning still is 140 mile per hour winds, hitting land at some time, middle day today. That is incredibly dangerous for the people south of here, for people in Tampa Bay too we're gonna feel those winds as well. But, just avoiding that storm surge is a is a big thing for, you know, the 3.2 million people in this region.

NIALA: Right. We're gonna be seeing lots of people without power. Tornadoes possible, especially as a storm then heads up through the central part of the state in Orlando. Axios’ Ben Montgomery, part of our local team in Tampa. Ben, stay safe. Take care.

BEN: Will do. Thank you.

NIALA: More than 2 .5 million people in Florida are under evacuation orders this morning. For some, public shelters are the only option. Elisa DeGregorio is one shelter manager in Pinellas County - who talked to us about the vulnerable nature of residents coming to shelter there.

ELISA DEGREGORIO: Our shelters are all open regardless of how many people show up. We'll just continue to designate space for those folks and you know, it'll get a little tight and snugly and we'll go from there, but the shelters doors don't shut, don't ever close.

NIALA: Thanks to Axios’s Ayurella Horn-Mueller for that audio. Tomorrow, we’ll have more on how people who are already having a hard time paying food bills prepare for a hurricane.

But after the break - how technology companies are taking part in the White House Conference on Hunger.

The White House hosts summit on hunger

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

During the pandemic as hunger worsened in the US, food banks and pantries relied heavily on delivery services like DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon. This year alone, DoorDash made more than 1.5 million food bank deliveries in 49 states and the District of Columbia.Today the White House is hosting its first conference on hunger since the Nixon administration. The goal is to end food insecurity by 2030. And these food delivery services will be part of that conversation. Axios' Tech Policy Reporter Margaret Harding McGill has been covering this story.

Margaret, when we look at the numbers in 2021, one out of every ten American households experience food insecurity and the might be interested to know about role have food delivery services played as we've see hunger worsen in the US?

MARGARET HARDING MCGILL: Yeah, I mean I think the pandemic just really revealed what the need is. I remember and I'm sure you do too, watching images on the news of families sitting in cars in lines for hours at mass distribution sites because they could no longer go inside to pick up their food. So they would just sit in their cars and hope for a delivery. So some of these delivery services have helped address that issue to the point that some food banks are actually shifting their models from those master distribution sites to rely on more and more on home deliveries, and it's not just a issue from the pandemic as well.

One person I talked to said that when gas prices spiked is just not possible for some families to sit in an idling car for hours waiting for food. And in these cases, getting a free delivery from a food bank solves that problem.

NIALA: And so what are the food pantries in other organizations working on this, what are they saying about these delivery services? I know you heard in particular about DoorDash.

MARGARET: The feedback I got was that repeatedly people told me they were a godsend because the food banks know the need is there and they also feel like they are reaching populations that they couldn't reach before. Seniors who are home bound, parents of young children, where the idea of just getting all the kids in the car and getting them to a place, it just feels insurmountable. Or people who have to isolate because of illness or recovering from surgery. Those are all groups that may need food but are challenging to reach without delivery.

And you know, I think there are certain stereotypes around the people who need services from food banks, but a lot of Americans experience food and security, including Americans with college degrees. It cuts across all different walks of life. And I think that there's some shame and some stigma associated with going into a food bank and what your neighbors will think if you're seen coming in or out of there that goes away if you just have a door dash delivery at your house, they call it delivering with dignity. And I think that that really helps expand these services to more.

One food bank I talked to said that they, she was relying on her husband loading up his truck and driving around before they started working with DoorDash to do these deliveries. And now they make about 6,000 deliveries a month using DoorDash.

NIALA: And who pays for that?

MARGARET: DoorDash is donating these services, which makes me wonder how long they can really do this for free. When I asked them that, they said that they're also looking to partner with other organizations because it's unrealistic for DoorDash to do all this work on its own.

NIALA: Margaret, how much of the conversation today at the White House will be about these food delivery companies, and in particular, what advocates are hoping will happen in Washington to help make things easier for them?

MARGARET: They're hoping that policymakers will consider easing regulations to make home delivery services more feasible. For example, a senior program in Pennsylvania requires seniors to show ID for every single delivery. Now, a DoorDash driver, a dasher, can wait and see the ID and go on their way, but other delivery services where they just wanna drop off a box of food, can't really wait around for somebody to show their IDs. So they're hoping that maybe that could be eased so that it's possible for more delivery services to take part.

NIALA: Margaret Harding McGill covers tech policy for Axios from Washington. Thanks for joining us, Margaret.

MARGARET: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s its for us today. For the latestt breaking news on Hurricane Ian you can visit axios dot com. And for all of you in its path, please stay safe.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - and I’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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