It’s not just water and gas — anxious South Florida residents are queuing up for many sweaty hours to get free sandbags.
At Doral Central Park, hundreds of city residents and business employees waited in a car line that snaked around Northwest 87th Avenue and down 33rd Street. The hope: 10 sandbags, given by the city of Doral, that could be used to ward off floods brought by Hurricane Irma.
For some, it was a plunge down the preparedness rabbit hole. Once they began the wait, it was hard to leave — even if there was no guarantee supplies would last.
“I don’t know if it will work or not, but just in case,” Viviana Augello said of the sand bags, as she waited in her car on a park track normally reserved for joggers and bicyclists.
If Irma hits, this will be the first hurricane for the 25-year-old Venezuelan who came to Miami three years ago. As she idled in her car — her engine off to conserve gas — Augello admitted she was a “little confused” by the need for sandbags.
“I need to get to work but I’ve already been here three hours. I might as well stay,” she said.
At least she was close, maybe 20 cars away from a crew of city workers using a machine known as the “The Sandbagger” to fill the heavy duty plastic bags.
Much farther away, on 33rd Street, Mariana Llanos started and stopped her minivan in fits and starts. The 33-year-old Doral resident heard about the sand giveaway through group messages on WhatsApp, the app popular among Latin Americans such as a Llanos, who came to Miami from Venezuela three years ago.
She’ll be riding out the storm with her family, including two young sons, all of them hurricane newbies. “I’ve nervous,” she said. “We don’t know what’s coming, but I have no problem waiting.”
Another motorist, Rebecca Tirado, 44, a grocery delivery woman with no more groceries to deliver for work, waited in line with a sense of déjà vu. One year ago, as Hurricane Matthew threatened South Florida, she waited in this exact same line — only to reach the end as supplies ran out.
“And this year, the line is even longer,” Tirado said.
By Wednesday in the late afternoon, traffic from the sand bag giveaway had snarled traffic in Doral as hundreds clogged the streets trying to get to the park. Inside the premises, the line was mostly orderly, although a Doral motorcycle police officer cursed out a driver who nearly hit him while turning left out of a hotel entrance. Many people got out and stretched their legs on the park track. Others nervously refreshed their smart phone screens.
Victor Coronado, a 70-year-old retired maintenance man, sheepishly asked a reporter for some water because of the heat. Frustrated with storms never actually hitting, he sold his aluminum house shutters years ago — hence his long wait in line on Wednesday. Still, he dismissed Irma. “It’s not going to hit,” he said, grinning.