Community Voices

Aventura students called Weather Rangers learn about hurricanes from experts

At the StormZone simulation, from left, Weather Rangers student meteorologists Simona Sartan, Alfred Harris and Kristina Filippova track Hurricane Irma with Florida International University’s Erik Salna and Miami-Dade Emergency Management’s Mirtha Gonzalez.
At the StormZone simulation, from left, Weather Rangers student meteorologists Simona Sartan, Alfred Harris and Kristina Filippova track Hurricane Irma with Florida International University’s Erik Salna and Miami-Dade Emergency Management’s Mirtha Gonzalez. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

As hurricane rebuilding and recovery efforts slowly continue in some communities, one group of students — the Weather Rangers from Aventura Waterways K-8 Center — took the opportunity to learn more about probable larger storms in the future and their effects.

“Instead of a Category 1, imagine if Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 4 on Sept. 10,” StormZone Program Director Bay Proby said. “It would have been a much more destructive storm. That’s what these students were faced with — planning for and recovering from an Irma on steroids.”

The 39 sixth-grade students used Hurrivac computer images at the Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations Center to monitor a fictitious Category 4 hurricane as it got closer to South Florida’s coast.

They played the parts of meteorologists, mayor, reporters, and persons involved in Emergency Support Functions. Their scenarios included simulations of flooding, fires, shelter evacuations, medical assistance, search and rescue, and hazardous materials spill services, as well as the round up of escaped zoo animals.

“We’ve sent boats, helicopters and anything we can get our hands on,’’ said Lucas Huenefeld during the StormZone emergency scenario. “We acted quickly and got the job done.”

“These Weather Rangers are dedicated students responsible for teaching their classmates and the community at large about the importance of disaster preparedness and community volunteerism,” Proby said.

“Like the Aventura Waterways K-8 Center experience, the program enables students to form their own government, learn the organizing principles used by emergency managers, make the decisions necessary to respond to a disaster in their community and create and coordinate a disaster recovery plan. Additionally, students learn the importance of preparedness and community volunteerism.”

To learn about StormZone and the Weather Rangers student outreach program, visit or contact Proby at

Free legal hotline

Are you a victim of Hurricane Irma? Living in a trailer or mobile home and lost everything? Uninsured? Having employment issues? Have car insurance claim questions or FEMA questions?

Sponsored by Dade County Bar Association, Dade Legal Aid and the Put Something Back Disaster Relief Project, the call-in program will be 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday for residents still dealing with storm issues. Others who need legal help can call, too. Volunteer attorneys along with the Put Something Back staff will answer the hotline phones. Call 1-866-596-0399.

Beauty of Homestead in art

The Historic Seminole Theatre will kick off the “Artist in the Spotlight” series with artist Susan Sorrentino and her exhibit “Homestead Harvest.” Featured will be many oil paintings highlighting the beauty of Homestead and the local environment.

Sorrentino fell in love with Homestead after moving there from Miami Beach where she was born and raised. She is a member of the Homestead Art Club, the Homestead Center for the Arts, the South Florida National Parks Camera Club and is an ardent supporter of the Historic Seminole Theatre. Her jewelry/mixed media designs have won many awards. You can see her creations at

Sorrentino also is donating two original oil paintings to be auctioned off at the Seminole Theatre at the intermissions of “Christmas with Rockapella” Dec. 23 and Country Night with the Tobacco Road Band on Jan. 13. Proceeds benefit the theater.

A Meet the Artist reception is 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in lobby of the Seminole Theatre with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and wine. The event is free. RSVP at The show will run through Jan. 31. Contact is

Liberty City Health Fair

The University of Miami Department of Community Service will host the Liberty City Health Fair 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Holmes Elementary School, 1175 NW 67 St. Offered will be cholesterol screening and glucose screening (for those fasting for eight hours), female and male exams, and numerous other medical services free of charge to the residents of Liberty City.

There also will be free toys, books, hot lunches and groceries provided for those who go through the fair.

DOCS is a student-led, student-run nonprofit organization that organizes health fairs run by students and practicing physicians across South Florida. They strive to provide free health screening services for underserved populations in our community. More details at

Brass instrument concert for kids

Brian Neal and Brass Miami will introduce children to the beauty of the sound of trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tubas at a one-hour performance 3 p.m. Dec. 10 at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 SW 57 Ave.

Visit early to see instruments up close provided by Allegro Music Center and stay after the concert for cookies and juice. Advanced purchase tickets are $10 for ages 3-17, $15 for adults, and $12 for seniors. Tickets at the door are higher. Check or call 800-514-3849.

“The purpose of the Nicklaus Children’s Family Fun series is to introduce kids and their families to the classical arts through performances which contain live music,” Orchestra Miami artistic director Elaine Rinaldi said in an email. “We’re proud to be fulfilling our mission of building community and educating through music with this series. Pinecrest Gardens is an incredible partner and I can’t think of a more perfect place for this magical series of concerts.”

Meet new neighbors for lunch

Everyone is invited to join New Neighbors Club of South Dade when the group hosts a holiday party at 11:30 a.m., Dec. 13 at Devon’s Seafood Restaurant, 11771 Sherri Lane in Kendall’s Town and Country Mall.

Guests are asked to bring unwrapped new toys for gift giving to needy children. Cost is $24 by check and reservations are required. Contact Charlene Richards at 305-251-3074 or email by Dec. 7.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at