Miami-Dade County is preparing to house Florida Keys residents who may not be able to live for awhile in homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Irma.
Evacuees would be accommodated at the Fuchs Pavilion at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exhibition, Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at a news briefing Tuesday. Other buildings at the expo, perhaps best known for being home to the annual Youth Fair, might open to let Keys residents in, he added.
“The fairgrounds has buildings in there that may not be hurricane shelters but can open up as shelters with big, large open spaces,” Gimenez said. “It looks like they were hit much harder than we were, and they’re going to need all the help they can get.”
He plans to fly over Monroe County later Tuesday with his fire chief and speak to Monroe leaders to get an estimate of potential evacuees and find out how Miami-Dade might best lend a hand to the Keys. Gimenez said he flew over Miami-Dade in a fire-department chopper Monday night.
“We are one community,” said U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, who represents the Keys and thanked Gimenez at the briefing for his offer. “A lot of tourists that come to South Florida visit both the Keys and Miami-Dade and Broward counties. A lot of people who live in Miami spend time in the Florida Keys. A lot of people who live in the Florida Keys have relatives throughout South Florida.”
Some 500 Miami-Dade residents — and, in many cases, their pets — remain at Fuchs, after the county closed its other 41 shelters and moved all evacuees there. Another shelter, for people with special needs, is also open, with about 100 evacuees, Gimenez said.
The mayor explained that he lifted a daily 7 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew Tuesday to hasten the county’s return to business as usual.
“Our most important goal yesterday was to clear the roads, start the restoration of power, empty out the shelters and bring back a sense of normalcy to our residents,” he said. “I’m proud of what I saw in the streets of Miami-Dade County: neighbor helping neighbor.”
According to the county, half of its 2,776 traffic lights are working, and 60 percent of county roads are clear. Metrorail resumed operations at noon and will run until 11 p.m. Tuesday night. Sixteen Metrobus routes are running. Metromover is still shut down because one of the construction-site cranes that snapped during the storm is dangling by a station.
Miami International Airport is expected to run a full flight schedule by Friday. The airport reopened Tuesday, with limited flights. Terminal G remains closed due to storm damage.
County garbage pickup has resumed. Monday pickups that were skipped will take place Wednesday. No ice distributions are planned for now, though some cities have organized their own.
Gimenez reminded residents that Miami-Dade tap water is safe and no part of the county is under boil-water orders. However, he reminded people that there is no swimming in Miami-Dade beaches per the Florida health department until testing can take place to determine the beaches are clean.
“Please stay out of the water until further notice,” Gimenez said.