Roofs are being swept away by relentless winds, and cars are being trampled by trees at a mobile home park in Sweetwater as Hurricane Irma rips through South Florida.
“Roofs and sidings are coming off in the trailer parks, trees blocking the roads nearly every block, street signs are down, trees on cars and cable and phone lines [are] on the floor,” wrote Yaneli Vasquez-Muñoz on Facebook.
The damage was reported as Irma made landfall in Key West at the Li’l Abner mobile home park near Southwest 114th Avenue and West Flagler Street in West Miami-Dade County.
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Florida is home to nearly 54,000 mobile homes, many owned or rented by vacationers and retirees looking for affordable housing. Miami-Dade has around 13,000; Palm Beach, about 19,000; and Broward, roughly 21,500, according to the U.S. Census.
Like all neighborhoods, trailer parks aren’t monolithic. Some offer sturdy customized, manufactured homes. Others are decrepit metal shacks. During Hurricane Andrew in 1992, entire trailer park communities in South Dade were destroyed.
Jacqueline Armenteros, 50, left her trailer on Friday as Miami-Dade County ordered residents to evacuate.
And just in case the ceiling did get swept away, she thought ahead, packing all her belongings in bags, tied with pink bows.
“That way if my house flies away I will at least find my bags with bows,” Armenteros said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I don’t expect to see my house again so right now I’m grieving.”
People often think twice before abandoning family heirlooms and mementos.
Bruce Groene, 80, stood in front a 150-year old desk that once belonged to his mother. He placed one hand on the mahogany surface as he clenched his drink in the other hand.
“It’s beautiful, but what can I do with it? Absolutely nothing,” Groene said before leaving to a shelter Friday.
For Betty Alexander — a 90-year-old Hurricane Andrew survivor riding out the storm in her Florida City mobile home — material goods hold a different sentiment.
“My belongings? I have my will in my iron box,” she said. “But I’m certain that when this is all over you’ll find me right here sipping on a martini.”