River Cities

Miami Springs cleaning up after early morning tornado damages homes, city park

This house at 1141 Plover Ave. in Miami Springs was so badly damaged, it was condemned and the owners were forced to find other move out and find other shelter.
This house at 1141 Plover Ave. in Miami Springs was so badly damaged, it was condemned and the owners were forced to find other move out and find other shelter. River Cities Gazette

Cleanup is underway in Miami Springs, where a tornado early Monday tore a swath of destruction from Ludlam Drive and Falcon all the way northeastward toward Peavy-Dove Park (across from Miami Springs Senior High School) before exiting into Hialeah.

A monster weather system that wreaked havoc on the entire southeastern United States, spawning deadly tornados in its path, finally made its way down to South Florida, which had been placed under a tornado watch from 1 to 6 a.m.

According to the official report released by the National Weather Service on Monday afternoon, the tornado was rated a borderline EF-0 to EF1 with an estimated wind speed of 107 mph. Its path length was 2.3 miles with a maximum width path of 123 yards.

It touched down at exactly 3:49 a.m. just east of the Palmetto Expressway between Northwest 55th Street and 48th Street, ending at 4:15 a.m. in east Hialeah.

The damage to Miami Springs was extensive as residents who woke up at the crack of dawn were greeted with every single Miami Springs Public Works truck available working to try to clear streets of downed trees everywhere.

Ground zero or the worst-hit area appeared to be a stretch of Plover Avenue between Miami Springs Avenue and Hammond Avenue, which was unpassable and was blocked off by Miami Springs police to allow numerous trucks to work to clear the block of major damage.

Numerous houses in the bird section suffered minor damage, but two houses right next door to each other, 1141 and 1131 Plover, were not so lucky.

The 1141 home was deemed inhabitable and the people renting the home were forced to leave.

Yvonne Tamargo owns the 1131 home and eventually was going to have to find shelter elsewhere; but was still home Monday morning with family members sitting in the living room waiting for the insurance company to arrive.

The good news out of all of this was that — according to Miami Springs City Manager William Alonso, who was on the scene with Public Works Director Tom Nash and Tammy Romero, assistant to the city manager — surveying the damage on Plover, there were no injuries.

“I was sound asleep and I think it was about quarter to 4 when all of a sudden a big noise, like a freight train, woke me up right out of my bed,” said Tamargo. “The glass broke from my window behind my bed and then everything happened so fast, it was terrifying. I immediately screamed out to my mom, went to go find her and my dog and got everyone away from all the windows. Just like that, as fast as it came, it was over.”

For Tamargo maybe, but the tornado continued on a northeasterly path and unfortunately the Miami Springs Optimist Club (1101 Wren) was in its direct path.

The clubhouse itself was spared but unfortunately the huge tent that serves as the home for all of the Christmas trees that get sold during the holidays did not.

Iris Ortega, secretary for the Optimist Club, was there with two other people trying to sift through the tent to see how damaged the poles were.

“Not good,” said Ortega. “These poles look completely bent. We’re going to take a hit on this one.”

Suffice to say, it was quite a busy morning for Nash once his phone rang at 4:30 a.m. and it was a Miami Springs police department dispatcher on the other end.

“They let me know that we had an issue,” said Nash, who was right there on Plover with his crew, chainsaw in his hand cutting away. “We were out here within 20 minutes, myself, my operations superintendent with a backhoe and immediately cleared some roads off North Royal Poinciana and Lenape. At that time, though, we had to suspend operations until we could get some daylight because there were too many downed power lines and we weren’t sure what was live. All hands on deck, got everyone out here clearing.”

According to the National Weather Service report, the damage path for the tornado ended around the intersection of West Second Avenue and West 12th Street in Hialeah near the water plant.

“The ball was already rolling when my phone rang,” said Alonso, who got his call from Nash at 5:30 a.m. “They (Public Works) were out here clearing the main arteries, getting the roads going and handling any life-safety issues that were out there. Luckily nobody was injured and there no loss of life, so for that we can be thankful. Property can always be replaced, human life cannot.”