Hurricane

Pick up electric scooters. Clean drains. Miami-Dade cities prepare for Hurricane Dorian

With Hurricane Dorian a few days away from making landfall somewhere on Florida’s east coast, some of Miami-Dade’s largest governments have sent out crews to clean drains, inspect construction sites, set up pumps and encourage the homeless to seek shelter.

In Miami, officials have issued an order to companies who have deployed a few hundred dockless electric scooters along the city’s dense urban coastline: You need to pick up your stuff by noon Friday.

Leaders from Miami, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County held press conferences advising residents to have a plan and be ready to follow it if the forecast worsens for South Florida. Flooding is expected even if only the storm’s outer bands pass over Miami-Dade — this week’s soggy weather, compounded by higher-than-expected King Tides, will set the stage for rainfall to challenge drainage systems in low-lying coastal areas.

In Miami, administrators told the six companies permitted to place electric scooters in public places that they need to remove their equipment by noon Friday, lest they become projectiles.

On Thursday afternoon, Miami officials told reporters that city inspectors have been visiting construction sites to ensure contractors have a plan to secure equipment — including cranes, which caused problems during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Irma’s powerful winds snapped three cranes at South Florida construction sites, including two in Miami.

“We’ve already informed the crane operators and contractors that they have to secure their cranes,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. “We saw obviously during Hurricane Irma that we had multiple cranes that failed and were a huge danger to our residents.”

Suarez said city staffers were walking the streets to assist the homeless in seeking shelter, vacuum cleaning the city’s storm drains and checking generators at senior residential centers.

Pete Gomez, assistant fire chief and Miami’s emergency manager, advised residents with special needs to contact the county. In the event of an evacuation, county workers will evacuate registered special needs residents.

In Miami Beach, City Manager Jimmy Morales said the city has coordinated with multiple police departments in case of an evacuation so authorities can direct the flow of traffic off the island. Officials hope to make re-entry smoother than it was after Irma, when residents and hospitality workers waited in long lines on causeways as police turned people away while crews cleaned up streets littered with downed branches, power lines and other debris.

The Beach officials hope to better communicate the order in which people will be allowed back on the island, if an evacuation is called. First responders and essential city employees would return first, followed by public utilities personnel, then workers from Mount Sinai Hospital, grocery stores and pharmacies. Once the streets are deemed safe, residents would be allowed back.

“The challenge will be, and we’re already communicating with our residents, that if you evacuate ... please wait until we give the all-clear to come back,” Morales said, adding that after Irma, residents tried to return the following day when it was still unsafe to navigate city streets.

Should an evacuation happen, the return could still be messy. At one point, commissioners discussed measures such as decals or hang tags for residents, who last time had to produce proof of residency. No such plan has been announced.

Like in Miami and across the county, Beach administrators have deployed workers to unclog gutters and clean out drainage systems. The city manager urged residents to stock up on supplies, have a plan in case of evacuation and be vigilant as updates and public announcements are made.

“I know sometimes when these projects are so unclear, people want to wait,” Morales said. “But you can only wait so long.”

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.
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