South Florida took a hit, but not a fatal one, from killer Hurricane Irma, as so many had feared.
We’re discovering how deeply wounded are the Florida Keys, particularly the Middle Keys just as the winter tourist season nears.
As we clean up and try to return to some form of normalcy, here are some observations:
▪ We don’t want to hear criticism that the National Hurricane Center and TV meteorologists sent us into hysterics over Irma unnecessarily. That they cried wolf to send us into a buying, fleeing frenzy. That’s baloney. These folks are pros, and in many ways, heroes. Sure, some residents stayed in their 25th-floor condo and survived. They lucked out. Anyone who has lived in South Florida and watched hurricanes come down the “Cape Verde pike” knows Irma, with that unblinking eye and tightly wound like an MMA fighter’s fist meant business from the start.
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Not to mention it was massive and would not weaken. Whether staying or leaving, any smart veteran South Floridian would have taken Irma seriously.
▪ Case in point: We have never seen so many locals flee the area to higher, safer ground, leaving the state, even. Not for Andrew, not for Wilma or David or Betsy. It’s a testament to how seriously smart people took the gravity of Irma’s predicted force.
▪ We’ve come a long way from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when we were so complacent about a storm actually hitting us. This time, we stocked up, boarded up, or pulled up stakes and hit the road — and with good reason.
▪ Thankfully, for South Florida at least, Irma did what hurricanes often do: It wobbled and leaned away at the last minute — and we mean the last minute — sparing us, as has been the case many times before.
▪ Gov. Rick Scott did a solid job in keeping Floridians abreast of the news. His message was on point: You can replace stuff, you cannot replace a life. Skeptical Floridians have said he was just campaigning for a job in the Senate. That’s irrelevant. He was tireless and showed leadership.
▪ What’s with the construction cranes in downtown Miami? Three snapped. No one died, but that was just luck. Government officials have been cowed by the construction industry for too long and failed to insist upon stronger crane codes. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado is right: “It’s development in the future versus tropical storms or hurricanes,” he told the Herald. “We just cannot gamble on the wind.”
▪ Credit FPL: Its legion of local and out-of-town workers sprang into action as soon as it was safe, restoring power to some areas the same day it was lost. Bravo. FPL indeed has worked diligently to harden its system. In many ways, it showed.
Still, as of Tuesday night, an estimated 13 million Floridians were without power. Utilities will have to be transparent and accurate in their communications with increasingly hot and frustrated customers so they don’t reach for their pitchforks and torches.
▪ It’s too late to turn back the clock, but unmitigated waterfront development is a non-starter. Flooding on Brickell Avenue — a river ran through it, really — was one more warning.
▪ It seems bad communication, a misunderstanding, led to shortage of American Red Cross volunteers at some county shelters set up in public schools. Let’s get this straightened out. Hurricane season is far from over.
How can this community better prepare for the next big one? Write to HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com