Hundreds Stuck on Causeways as Miami Beach Blocks Traffic From Returning

Police stop cars trying to cross the 79th Street Causeway.
Police stop cars trying to cross the 79th Street Causeway. Photo by Laine Doss
The sun is shining in South Florida, and the wind is beginning to die down. For the tens of thousands of Miami Beach residents who evacuated the barrier island before Hurricane Irma, it might seem like the perfect time to return home to assess damage and check out the neighborhood.

Don't do it. Miami Beach Police will not let you back onto the island. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has banned any vehicles from returning until noon Tuesday, and city officials say too many trees and power lines are down to allow any safe passage.

But hundreds of residents apparently didn't get that message. Huge lines of cars are now jammed on the 79th Street Causeway and all the other links to Miami Beach as police officers stop anyone from entering the city.

Tensions are rising among the drivers, most of whom haven't slept much in two days and want nothing more than a chance to return home.

On the 79th Street Causeway, one woman angrily screamed and berated the police officers blocking the roadway. The cops calmly listened — but didn't budge.

Some residents left their cars and walked over the bridge to try to get back. Patti Hernandez and her family left their car by a pizzeria in North Bay Village and began the long, hot walk across the bay toward their home in North Beach. Carrying a bag of Diet Coke, Hernandez says she's been gone for three days, but neighbors told her that her house took some damage that she wants to see for herself.

"The docks are gone; my patio is destroyed," she says.

But an officer on the scene says that even walking into Miami Beach is dangerous. Officials plan to let in only essential workers in vehicles and are warning pedestrians heading to the Beach that downed power lines are a serious threat.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss
Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink