Video: No freeze, but lots of ice in Florida

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/30/2007 7:43:48 PM ET 2007-01-31T00:43:48

In big freezers, at a high cost, Florida has been left holding the bag. Bags, actually, of 9 million pounds of ice.

During the destructive hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, Florida officials stocked up on ice, handing it out to beleaguered storm victims across the state. While a lot of ice was left over, emergency managers were sure they'd give the rest away during the next hurricane season.

"We'd already spent money on it," says Craig Fugate, director of Florida Emergency Management. "Let's don't let it melt, let's keep it frozen, and have it available."

But in 2006, no hurricanes hit Florida — and the ice was never needed.

The problem is that storing all this ice in refrigerated warehouses is very expensive. It costs the state $90,000 a month. Florida spent more than $1 million preserving the unused ice, and finally decided to cut its losses by giving it away.

The biggest taker, so far, is the town of Minneola, near Orlando, where Mayor David Yeager asked for 15 truckloads.

"It's better than letting it sit in the warehouse doing nothing," he says.

Homeowners can take all they want. Some are making snow cones, but most of the ice is being melted to replenish a local lake.

State officials say it could have been worse.

"Yeah, not having a lot of hurricanes brought us new and challenging problems, but I'd rather have these problems than to have gone through another 2005 or 2004 hurricane season," says Fugate.

For most Floridians, that's a cold, hard fact.

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