It has been nine years since Hurricane Wilma, a storm that refused to play by the rules, wreaked havoc on South Florida. Traveling from the west of the Gulf Coast over the Everglades, with surprising strength, it reached Category 3 intensity as it made landfall. The storm crossed South Florida in 4.5 hours.
At the annual City of Sunny Isles Beach Hurricane Workshop that took place on June 25, City officials emphasized the importance for residents to heed storm watches or warnings and that they should have a storm plan. This in-depth review of storm preparedness gave residents, condominium associations and business owners the most up-to-date information available . . . all the more reason not to be complacent.
Police Chief Fred Maas took to the podium where he outlined the workshop agenda and introduced the speakers. He explained the three main elements of a hurricane: pre-storm, during the storm, and the aftermath. “The importance is communication and to stay in tune with the local media. Miami-Dade County has a 311 phone number that can provide the public with any answers regarding evacuations and shelters that are typically located at the nearby schools,” said Chief Maas.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) “Climate Prediction Center” report, an El Niño weather pattern reemerging this year has increased and it may prove to be a less active season; nevertheless, Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, an El Niño year.
“Before a storm, Building Inspectors will post signs notifying construction sites to secure hazardous debris. It is possible that a 20 foot tidal storm can follow a major storm and travel beyond the Intracoastal,” said Clayton Parker, Building Official. The City of Sunny Isles Beach Building Department works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Building Inspectors will prepare reports on the structural damage.
The best protection for condominiums is for associations to bring the properties up to code. Often, flying projectiles are of concern. One neighbor may have shutters and another may not. A broken window in a condo can let the forceful wind in, resulting in a vacuum effect.
“Sunny Isles Beach is a barrier island and is required to be evacuated in the event of a hurricane; therefore, families must have an evacuation plan and know where each family member will be. After a storm, there will be all types of hazards on the roads with utility wires down,” said Captain Dwight Snyder, Police Department. During an evacuation order, hotels should partner with each other in order to re-accommodate their guests. Also, Sunny Isles Beach business owners should be proactive and provide the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department with a list of their employees in case roads are only open to residents; then the Police Department will allow workers into Sunny Isles Beach.
“During Hurricane Wilma, the Police Department secured access to the City. Where other nearby cities had looting, we were able to protect vulnerable businesses. Police cars with flashing lights were stationed at the north and south sections of Collins, near the bridges. Only residents with Sunny Isles Beach identification were allowed access to their homes and businesses, an advantage of living on this barrier island,” Chief Maas continued.
“After a hurricane, Public Works will get the City infrastructure up and running again. There is a 72-hour to oneweek period where we have to contend with down trees, power lines, debris, and clearing the roads. Florida Power and Light (FPL) gives the okay when it is safe for electricity to be restored,” said Bill Evans, Assistant City Manager.
This year’s Hurricane Workshop was successful in bringing concerned citizens and business people together to gain valuable information on how to deal with Mother Nature when it is at its most ferocious. For more information visit the City’s website at: http://www.sibfl.net/hurricane, or call the Miami-Dade County Call Center at 311.