Tuesday 19 July 2011

The America project - Florida

Florida (FL) size 65,755 sq.m population 18.8 million

Bordering states Alabama, Georgia (2)
State capital Tallahassee
Most populous city Jacksonville
Other notable places Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg
Notable landmarks and natural features Kennedy Space Centre; Walt Disney World; Universal Resort; SeaWorld; The Everglades; Florida Keys

Statehood 3rd March 1845 (27th)

Ten famous Floridians
Pat Boone (singer; born Jacksonville, 1934 -)
Carrot Top (comedian; born Cocoa Beach, 1965 -)
Faye Dunaway (actress; born Bascom, 1941 -)
Deborah Harry (singer; born Miami, 1945 -)
Hulk Hogan (wrestler and actor; born Augusta, Georgia (raised in Tampa), 1953 -)
Jim Morrison (singer; born Melbourne, 1943-1971)
Tom Petty (musician; born Gainesville, 1950 -)
Sidney Poitier (actor; born Miami, 1927 -)
Buck Showalter (baseball coach; born DeFuniak Springs, 1956 -)
John Archibald Wheeler (physicist; born Jacksonville, 1911-2008)

Three important events

1. Challenger (28th January 1986)
The NASA space program was up against it by the mid-1980s. One way to increase public interest that NASA hit upon was the Teacher In Space program, to put an American educator in orbit on the Space Shuttle. It was broadly successful, as Christa McAuliffe captured the hearts of the nation. To have been a completely unqualified success, however, one would have to disregard what happened next. With nightime temperatures some 30 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the Florida average, the safety O-Rings, designed to prevent hot exhaust gasses igniting the rocket boosters' hydrogen and oxygen failed to expand sufficiently in the freezing conditions, causing a catastrophic and very public explosion just over a minute into the flight. All on board were killed.

2. Hurricane Andrew (16th-28th August 1992)
Only the third Category 5 Hurricane to make landfall in US history, 1992's Hurricane Andrew was the costliest storm in American history up to that point, causing US$27 billion worth of damage. Florida was particularly badly afflicted by wind damage - crop losses alone amounted to over $1 billion, 25% of the trees in the Florida Everglades were felled and in Dade County, the worst hit, 90% of houses were left with severe structural damage.

3. The Hanging Chads (2000)
The most shambolic American election in history was decided by Florida. George W. Bush looked set to win the race based on exit polls - his Democrat rival Al Gore had publically conceeded defeat during the night - before reports of problems and irregularities in Florida came to light. Poorly designed ballot papers, which did not make it immediately clear which candidate was being selected, and malfunctioning voting machines which didn't necessarily always fully make the required hole (thus leaving the conundrum of whether or not a hanging chad should be counted) were to blame. After weeks of wrangling and recounts, the State and the White House eventually went to Bush by 0.01% of the vote. After the event, many commentators and analysts have argued that had recounts been done differently - hanging chads and all - the result could have narrowly swung Gore's way instead. It was perhaps the least proud moment in US Electoral History, even if you discount the numerous conspiracy theories which have sprung up since.

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