Irma is finally gone. Now, everyone can go home and life can return to normal. Right?
After an entire week of hurricane prep, and a full weekend of hiding out from a major hurricane, that’s not the case. At least, not quite yet.
Though the inclement weather is gone, reminders of Irma’s visit are everywhere.
Some 2 million people lost power in South Florida alone, and another 3 million across Florida. The process of removing trees felled across major roadways and boats tossed by Irma’s storm could take days. It’s not even known when school will resume, with both Miami-Dade and Broward counties public schools announcing that, until further notice, classes will be canceled.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands evacuated from their South Florida homes ahead of the storm are now looking to return.
“Don’t think just because this thing passed you can run home,” Gov. Rick Scott said at an afternoon briefing in Opa-locka. “We’ve got downed power lines across the state. Roads that are impassable all over this state. We have debris all over this state.”
It’s a difficult reality for a region of millions of people who emerged Monday morning feeling a little stir crazy and looking to put Irma in the past. In downtown Miami, high-rise tenants snuck out into the dawn to walk their dogs and go jogging past toppled palm trees. Charter boat captains returned to Miamarina behind Bayside to check out their vessels.
But almost as quickly, Miami leaders asked them to head back home, saying the city remains unsafe because of downed power lines and road hazards. And then they announced that a nighttime curfew put in place ahead of Irma’s arrival would remain in place until at least Tuesday — something that irked some of the businesses trying to get back on track.
“The biggest thing we want our residents to understand is that it’s still dangerous to be out on the streets,” Alfonso said. “It’s best not to have people driving around looking at what’s happening.”
Coral Gables also instituted a curfew until 7 a.m., as did Miami-Dade.
On the bright side, at least Miami residents can enter their city. Lines of cars piled up on the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle causeways Monday as people who evacuated Miami Beach tried to return home to cities that had blocked their entrance while trying to clean up damage from the hurricane. Nine out of 10 traffic lights were still out late Monday afternoon.
“We haven’t bathed in two days,” said Carlos Lorenzi, as he sat in line with his wife, Monica.
Key Biscayne and North Bay Village also blocked residents from coming home to the coastal islands, although even those residents could take some comfort in at least being close to home, as opposed to the thousands who fled South Florida to other parts of the state — some of which ended up taking more of a beating than their home.
Not that going out is particularly easy right now. The roadways also remain a complicated, incomplete grid as teams with chainsaws and heavy equipment try to get downed trees and branches that are blocking streets. Plus, a “gas panick” that struck just about the entire state ahead of Irma’s approach led to a spike in prices and shortage in supply. PortMiami and Port Everglades, crucial to the importing of gasoline, remain closed until further notice.
Tourists can also expect delays after their vacations were significantly dampened by Irma. Carlos Castillo tried to get out and make the best of his stay in Miami on Monday morning, snapping pictures and disaster-sight seeing ahead of his flight out.
“The streets are empty. It’s a very strange, beautiful Miami,” he said, bent on a fruitless search for coffee.
And yet, most of us can’t even go home without being reminded about Irma’s inconveniences. Millions are without power, and Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy says that while the company is doing everything it can to restore the grid, it’s going to take a while to get everyone back online.
“People need to be prepared for extended outages — weeks,” Silagy said.
At least there are some signs of normalcy. Publix, Walgreens, and restaurants like Sparky’s in downtown were open Monday. Other shops were working to get there, offering some reprieve from gas grills, gallon jugs of water and PB&J.
At Flanigan’s in Coconut Grove, Ashley and Zach Winkler occupied a makeshift two-top — converted out of a hostess station shortly after 2 p.m.
The wait for food was long, with a generator running the place. Limited burgers, no more fries. But the Bud Light in their pitcher was cold, and couple has no electricity at home.
“We’re purposely sitting here because it’s nice and cool,” Ashley said.
Miami Herald staff writers Kristen M. Clark, Nancy Dahlberg, Joey Flechas, Douglas Hanks, Chabeli Herrera and Caitlin Ostroff contributed to this report.