For all its dripping, sopping wetness, Tropical Storm Isaac, basically, was a dry run for much of South Florida. This is not to dismiss the cars smashed by falling trees, the residents and businesses stuck in the dark without power or the flooded streets.
However, Haiti, where thousands of people still live in tents, was hit hard, and its recovery will take far longer. At least 19 people died as a result of the storm, and the number of deaths could rise. It’s just the latest indication that Haiti’s dysfunctional government has misplaced priorities. After all, the tent cities in and around Port-au-Prince have been up since the earthquake of January 2010. Add cholera and security concerns to the mix, and the situation only grows more unacceptable by the day.
And as Isaac, upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, blows into the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, memories of killer Katrina, no doubt, are flooding the region.
Here, thousands of South Floridians went through the exercise of putting up shutters, hauling boats out of the bay and stocking up on batteries, water and nonperishables. If they watched the weather forecasters nonstop, there still was some uncertainty as to which way Isaac would wobble — to the north? to the west? Ultimately, many awoke on Monday morning exclaiming, “That was it?”
Still, it’s hard to contend that the storm was overhyped, and by late Sunday afternoon, the region pretty much knew that it was facing something less than a direct hit. Plus, there’s little harm in being overprepared.
Some communities had more to contend with than others. There was severe flooding in central West Palm Beach, which was the soggiest area in South Florida. In fact, West Palm Beach set a two-day record for rainfall. A little more than nine inches fell on Sunday and Monday — making it the wettest August ever there, with a record 22.28 inches of rain. Isaac dumped more than 11 inches on northeast Broward County.
The storm was a drill of sorts, too, for local and state leaders facing their first mini-storm crisis in office. So, though there wasn’t that much to handle, it was good to see Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez holding press conferences over the weekend, along with several commissioners. Nice, too, to see Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado step up.
Gov. Rick Scott, likewise, used the storm to put himself front and center, canceling commitments to show up at events that were part of the Republican National Convention (where he wasn’t receiving a full bear hug, anyway) to instead hold press conferences and, generally, look in charge. Convention planners followed his lead and delayed its start by a day.
Florida Power & Light, too, got to see just how well its hardened system stood up to something less than hurricane-force winds. Ironically, more people — 62,000 — were left without power as the tropical storm was on its way out on Monday evening than when it hovering over the area Sunday night and early Monday. Isaac’s remnants still packed a punch, and repair crews were hampered by gusts of more than 35 miles per hour.
Hopefully, the utility company will use what one Miami Beach resident called “a nothing storm” to identify the trouble spots and make them more secure. Longstanding outages are not the way to win friends or influence the Public Service Commission to grant that rate hike FPL has requested.