Brief Introduction to South Florida
“ South Florida ”
is a generic term defining the 3 adjacent counties stacked along
the Atlantic coastline: Dade, Broward, & Palm
Beach . They are also known as the “tri-county area”. There
are of course several other
counties in the state, both North and West of the tri-county
area. However when someone speaks of “South Florida” they are
usually talking in relation to industry or population; subjects
devoid of quantity in the tri-county's neighboring counties.
QUICK FLORIDA FACTS
- Total Area - 58,560 square miles
- Total land area - 54,136 square miles
- Total water area - 4,424 square miles
- Rank among states in total area - 22nd
- Length north and south - 447 miles (St.
Marys River to Key West)
- Width east and west - 361 miles (Atlantic
Ocean to Perdido River)
- Distance from Pensacola to Key West - 792
miles (by road)
- Highest Natural Point - 345 feet
- Geographic Center - 12 miles northwest
of Brooksville, Hernando County
- Coastline - 1,197 statute miles
- Tidal shoreline (general) - 2,276 statute
- Beaches - 663 miles
- Longest River - St. Johns, 273 miles
- Largest Lake - Lake Okeechobee, 700 square
- Largest county - Palm Beach, 2,578 square
- Smallest county - Union, 245 square miles
- Number of lakes (greater than 10 acres) -
- Number of islands (greater than 10 acres) -
Historical facts :
- First permanent European settlement - 1565,
St. Augustine, by Spain
- Acquired from Spain as a U.S. Territory -
- Admitted as 27th state of the U.S. - March
Current facts :
- Capital - Tallahassee
- Population 2000 - 15,982,378 (Rank 4th)
- Population 1990 - 12,937,926
- Population 1980 - 9,739,992
- Population growth rate 1990-2000 - 23.53%
- Most populous metropolitan area 2000 -
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale: 3,876,380
- Number of counties - 67
- Form of government - Governor and cabinet
consisting of Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and
Commissioner of Agriculture
- State sales tax - 6%
- State income tax - None
- Legislature - 120 house districts, 40 senate
districts, 25 congressional districts
Before 1920 South Florida was mostly wetlands.
Massive drainage projects were undertaken by the Army Corps of
Engineers, which resulted in an impressive
water-movement system. This system consists of hundreds of
man-made canals and lakes.
Several fast-moving-water canals can actually
be navigated by watercraft. Many of the area man-made lakes (drainage
water basins) have their water level controlled by massive pumping
systems installed underground.
Today South Florida is a teeming metropolis. Viewed
from the sky, it is one vast cityscape, five thousand square
miles in size, dotted with bodies of water and the occasional
Many people have asked us the simple question
of describing South Florida in relation to New York , Chicago
and other large-city experiences. Lacking a central industrial
hub that those cities do, South Florida is best thought of as
a sprawling suburbia.
Industry is scattered throughout the tri-county area, rather
than concentrated into a few square miles. This creates seamless
merging of residential, commercial and light industrial areas.
It is impossible to discern separate cities
and towns from the air. Though South Florida boasts over 60 separate
municipalities, each is separated by little more than a road
or canal. City boundaries are noted by signs “Welcome To …”,
which is the only way to know you have driven across a boundary.
The average drive-time from South to North is
2 hours. From West to East is only 26 minutes. No matter where
you are in South Florida , you are only 26 minutes from the ocean.
South Florida is a modern metropolis. Buildings
over 50 year's old are the exeption rather than the rule.
A South Florida “sky scraper” may be 30 stories
high at best. It is not yet a vertical landscape. Indeed, there
are only 2 areas in which you can move about these tall buildings:
a Dade County area called “Downtown
Miami”, and a small two city-block area in Broward known
as “Downtown Fort
Lauderdale”. Of course, along the beachfront there seems
to be a wall of high-rise condominiums, almost cutting off the
ocean from the rest of the area.
Still, South Florida lacks the head-tipping
awe that New York , Chicago and Boston have on the uninitiated.
A beautiful sky is the only reason to look up in South Florida
Now that South Florida has reached the western boundary for
building and development, we will begin to see the vertical growth
of the area. Prior to this time there was no need to build ‘up'.
South Florida is completely flat, so only the government-controlled
boundary protecting the Everglades limits how far west we can
Most homes built
prior to 1990 are single story. There are no basements in Florida
. Most of South Florida is only a few feet above sea-level, therefore
digging into the ground gets to be quite wet work. Aside from this,
a few feet beneath the topsoil is a porous limestone shelf that
requires dynamite blasting to remove. It is quite expensive, therefore
most Florida homes are built on top of a concrete slab poured on
top of compacted sand. It is not uncommon for homes to have “settling”
cracks, but sinking foundations are extremely rare.
Most homes are built from concrete cinder-block
(CBS). Since Florida is a hurricane magnet, it seems important
to build houses that cannot lift up, or float away. It has become
popular lately to build 2 story houses (which requires less land
for more square foot of living space). It is rare however to
build the second story from cinder-clock, but to use plasterboard
and wood instead.
Due to the lack of road salting, Florida roadsides
are well cleaned. You do not have the “dusting” effect coating
your car with road grime.
Grass and trees are forever green and lush.
Flowering trees and plants are purposefully landscaped along
roads and highways. Counties spend millions on road and park
cleanup operations. Being a tourist-driven economy, it is important
to show the world a clean face. The most notable comment of first-time
residents to South Florida is its neatness.
South Florida is home to over five and a half
million people. There are over 153,000 employers in the tri-county
South Florida has a strong ethnic diversity,
creating a rich and varied cultural and commercial community.
Restaurants, shops and entertainment celebrate the uniqueness
of the multi-cultural environment. There are weekly festivals
celebrating the cultural, religious and lifestyle freedoms that
South Florida has to offer.
US Census links:
PALM BEACH : http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/12099.html
The weather in South Florida is temperate. Winters
are windy, with occasional temperature drops into the 60's. It
is rare to need more than a sweater for an evening out. We do
get occasional cold days (50+) but it is more the exception than
The changing of Winter into Spring is not noticeable.
Spring has a nice cool breeze and a softening sun. However, the
breeze lessens daily which makes the sun feel hotter. Summers
in South Florida are tough to people not accustomed to wet heat.
The thermometer seldom leaves the mid 90's in
summertime. This in itself isn't too bad, but South Florida summers
are devoid of breeze (except for ocean exposure).
Additionally, South Florida summers are known
for afternoon spot-showers. These are pointless bursts of rain
that typically last 15 minutes. They stop as abruptly as they
begin, leaving the hot ground covered in a thin coating of water,
easily evaporated into the already-humid air. This air can be
difficult to breathe for asthmatics.
Autumn in South Florida becomes noticeable in
September, when the wind suddenly returns. It is wonderful to
be outside again. However, by the end of October you start experiencing
strong gusting winds that can make it difficult to hold outdoor
activities. October through December sees a lot of overcast days.
Being a “new” area, South Florida has grown & developed
around the notion of individual people owning individual transportation.
Public transportation in the tri-county area is not adequate,
and though they are making strides in expanding it, the fact
is it will remain ineffective into the foreseeable future.
South Florida is predominately composed of residential ‘clusters',
serviced by scattered (but plentiful) shopping centers. Reliance
on automobiles for even simple shopping is a fact of life. The
average distance to the nearest grocery store is eight tenths
(8/10) of a mile. No one walks to shopping.
The area is serviced by several arterial super highways, with
several lesser highways and major roadways branching out into
general intersections (see map). Traffic jams during the daily
2 “rush hour” periods generally last 60 to 90 minutes with traffic
moving at half pace.
Shopping is plentiful in South Florida . Because the residential
areas are so spread out, most chain stores find it necessary
to have multiple locations in the same cities. For instance,
Dunkin Donuts has stores every 6 thousand feet in any direction
in my home area. Quite literally, there are 3 of them within
a 5 minute drive from my house. The same hold true for McDonald's,
Wendy's, Burger King, grocery stores (2 complete supermarkets
within a 2 minute drive – one to the left, one to the right),
and any other particular shopping.
Strip stores (one long building, several individual businesses)
line each major road, and even service-related stores such as
barbering and auto repair are located every few intersections.
South Florida Shopping Malls ( Address
of mall, phone, webpage & link )
FLORIDA STATE WEBSITE
the Florida State website for information about the state.