Here’s the question of the week on social media more than a week after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida: “Did everyone who evacuated come back and bring 10 people with them?”
What the [expletive removed, but only after a fight with family-friendly editors] is going on with our traffic?
Irma left behind an even bigger traffic mess than our usual hell ride. Short trips that should take 25 minutes take twice that or more.
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Longer trips? Forget ’em. Book a flight. Work from home. Bring along the “War and Peace” audiobook — you’ll hear all 1,225 pages.
The reasons are many, according to the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works. There are 2,776 traffic signals in Miami-Dade. As of Thursday afternoon, 202 of these were still offline owing to power outages or damage to the lights, said department spokeswoman Karla Damian.
“The majority of the downed signals are at intersections and are due to power issues and the Department of Transportation is working with FPL to address these individual signals.”
Thursday afternoon brought another unwelcome obstacle thanks to an overactive Mother Nature. Several signals went out due to severe weather that moved through the area.
Storm debris, like downed trees and limbs and building materials, still piled high on swales and curbs, adds another hurdle that impacts traffic flow.
But there’s something to the Facebook and Twitter quips, too.
“We had an influx of people that left who are coming back,” the transportation department spokeswoman said. “This might have an impact on it as well, people returning form wherever they went after Irma.”
Add the clean-up crews who are working on the streets to pick up the mess, out-of-town responders and emergency personnel, and some evacuees who managed to escape from Hurricane Maria, and you have an unholy gridlock.
The good news?
The Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works has crews “working 24/7 on the lights to make sure they start working at all the intersections as power is restored,” the spokeswoman said.
The department also has its recently renovated $1.3 million county traffic signal command center near Miami International Airport from which its operators can monitor and control the 2,776 signals remotely from computers and view screens that look like a room at NASA mission control.
All combined, boots on the ground and the wizards inside the command center, this effort should get us back to our normal Miami traffic nightmare.