Big Publix stores started selling groceries again. Several parks opened their gates. Police stopped barricading all causeways.
So, by Tuesday morning, Miami Beach had reopened itself (at least until 11 p.m.) after Irma’s tropical storm winds with hurricane-force gusts. Residents and visitors streamed onto the island to find driveways littered with felled trees and shrubs, neighborhoods slowly getting power restored and businesses ready to sell hot meals to people who wanted to eat in air-conditioned rooms.
Though some of the city remained without electricity and many stoplights were still out, the Beach allowed all comers access at 8 a.m. Before they lifted the roadblocks, three lanes of traffic stretched along the MacArthur Causeway on the way into Miami Beach.
But the city didn’t join the county, the city of Miami or North Miami in lifting a curfew altogether. Instead, Miami Beach set a curfew for 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Wednesday, giving workers another night to clear some of the storm carnage.
Also, as the city opened its entrances, it opened eight parks: Lummus, Maurice Gibb Park, South Pointe, Palm Island, Scott Rakow Youth Center, North Shore Park and Youth Center, Fisher Park and Crespi Park.
Frederico Novarese sipped his Corona and checked on the drumsticks cooking on a community grill in the courtyard of his North Beach apartment complex Tuesday. With no power in any of the units at 75th Street and Byron Avenue, the tenants decided to have a barbecue while they swept away palm fronds and chopped up fallen branches. It was time to eat the refrigerated food before it went bad and drink the beer before it got warm.
“We were lucky,” Novarese said, before offering drumsticks to neighbors hanging around the courtyard. He and his neighbors talked about the devastation Hurricane Irma had left behind in Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and how a direct hit would have devastated South Florida. “It could have been worse.”
That refrain reverberated across the barrier island as residents and business owners returned to inspect their homes and livelihoods after evacuating. After spending a full day to clear streets made impassable by tree branches and trunks, snapped power lines and other debris, Beach officials declared the roadways safe to use.
“We have a roof,” said Margot Todaro, minutes after pulling up to her home in the Bayshore neighborhood, north of the Miami Beach Golf Club. “But we don’t have an awning.”
The cars in their driveway no longer had shelter after Irma’s winds shredded an awning. But that seemed to be the worst of it. Her husband Richard donned working gloves and started immediately picking up debris from trees.
Down on Lincoln Road, John Mulloy oversaw workers setting up tables and chairs at the café he manages at Books & Books. Like so many businesses of all kinds across the Beach, they worked to get up and running to serve customers as they returned to the city.
Mulloy said he was impressed with the efforts of the city and businesses to get back to normal.
“The cleanup crew of the city of Miami Beach seemed to be working all night to clear the streets,” he said, as a contractor cut down branches that had snapped off a nearby tree and piled them onto the back of a John Deere buggy.
He echoed Novarese on being fortunate the Beach didn’t take a direct hit. He said that many people still took the hurricane seriously in the days leading up to the storm, as evidenced by the flood of residents returning home after evacuating and business owners across the city removing shutters and plywood boards.
“There was a lot of preparation for this hurricane,” he said.