After being blindsided by torrential rainfall Aug. 1, Miami Beach officials are preparing for possible flooding as forecasters anticipate heavy rains this week.
Mayor Philip Levine warned residents in an email Monday that even in the 15 percent of the city’s drainage system that has been upgraded with electric pumps and raised roads, tropical weather will overwhelm the infrastructure. Although South Florida appears to have dodged the high winds of tropical weather for the next few days, meteorologists predict storm bands will come ashore Tuesday that could bring an average of one to two inches of rain in some areas and possibly more in other places.
“Even with these upgrades, the stormwater system is not designed to handle the large, intense volumes of water we see with extreme tropical storm and hurricane events,” he said.
The severe storm that dumped 6.5 inches in parts of South Beach three weeks ago prompted Levine to call for city officials to expedite negotiations on permanent generators for pumps in the city’s lowest-lying areas — even though he and every other city commissioner had been warned more than a year ago about lack of backup power by an engineer who helped develop the city’s approach to stormwater drainage.
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Construction has begun on the permanent generators in Sunset Harbour and is expected to be complete within 90 days. The city has started factoring in backup power in all future drainage work.
“We are negotiating the addition of permanent generators on several contracts that have already begun and we are including permanent generators in the specifications for future projects,” said city spokeswoman Melissa Berthier.
Among the most flood-prone areas is Sunset Harbour, where the storm knocked out power for multiple pumps and water pooled on sidewalks and streamed into businesses. Other areas where pumps were on and functioning, like Alton Road, still saw flooding but those areas drained quicker than in the past. In other sections where upgrades have not been installed, the floodwater wreaked havoc as it swamped roads and sidewalks.
The deluge highlighted the limitations of the Beach’s drainage infrastructure, even where millions have been spent to make improvements. The city is still eight years away from completing $500 million worth of planned upgrades, which include pumps and elevating roads. The road-raising plans have been met with resistance from homeowners who fear taller roads will swamp their private property.
This week, the city is in full preparation mode to mitigate any possible flooding. Eighteen temporary generators are already in place at pumps to keep them on in case of an outage. Nine temporary pumps are on standby, according to Eric Carpenter, the Beach’s public works director.
In Levine’s email, he implored property owners to prepare themselves for bad rain this week and through the rest of hurricane season, which includes seasonal high tides that cause sunny day flooding in September, October and November — king tides that would be devastating if combined with tropical weather.
The city’s tips to owners include:
▪ Put up flood barriers.
▪ Obtain elevation certificates and keep flood insurance policies handy.
▪ Elevate appliances and mechanical devices that might be in the path of floodwaters.
▪ Park in garages and avoid parking in low areas.