Miami Beach City Manager on Floatopia's Nine-Dumpster Trash Disaster: Blame It on the Rain

In a letter to the Miami Beach Commission, City Manager Jimmy L. Morales has detailed what he believes went wrong and led to the trash disaster after this weekend's Floatopia event. His explanation can best be summed up by slightly tweaking some classic Milli Vanilli lyrics: "Blame it on the rain/Blame it on the cars/Whatever you do, don't put the blame on us/Blame it on the rain, yeah, yeah/You can blame it on the rain.

In other words, Morales blamed the result on both unexpected attendance and an unexpected downpour. 

Morales claims that last year's spring edition of Floatopia also led to massive amounts trash on the beach and that his administration learned its lesson, which did led to less trash during the August 2015 edition of the event and should have provided a blueprint for this year. 

Morales writes the city made the following preparations: 

  • Police presence was upped from 18 officers to 29. 
  • After reports last year that some participants buried coolers of beer in the sand the previous night, officers on ATVs patrolled the beach the night before. 
  • Checkpoints were set up at entrances from South Pointe Park to Fifth Street to check for glass, alcohol, and other banned items. 
  • Lifeguard towers were double-staffed. 
  • A dedicated code-enforcement team was deployed. 
  • Dedicated sanitations staff was upped by five members. 
  • Additional parking employees, park rangers, and goodwill ambassadors were staffed. 
  • Additional trash receptacles were provided.  

So city staff certainly expected a large crowd but didn't anticipate the exact turnout. 

Morales estimates that the crowd stretched from South Pointe to Tenth Street and that attendance was upward of 100,000 people. That number is more than ten times higher than that at the previous event. Of course, that estimate does seem a bit high. The entire population of Miami Beach is only 91,000, after all.

Real-time adjustments were made to handle the surge in attendance, he says, but staff couldn't control the weather. 

"Nature, however, did not cooperate, and it rained heavily towards the end of the day," Morales writes. "This caused a mass exodus from the beach, and significant trash was left behind, including many floats. The mass exodus also aggravated the traffic problems since all the cars that came to the beach over the course of the day were now leaving at one time (plus an accident with injuries at the west end of the MacArthur that made matters worse). The heavy rains (twice that night) also impacted our beach clean-up efforts." 

Those clean-up efforts lasted until 11 p.m. the day of the event and began again at 6 a.m. the following day. Morales says the beach was clean by 10 a.m. 

Nine 30-cubic-yard-dumpsters' worth of trash ended up being removed, which is three times the amount that was removed last year. However, that number doesn't include all the trash that was removed by volunteers. 

Morales, however, points out the event was relatively safe. A shooting on 12th Street that afternoon had nothing to do with Floatopia, and only two people were arrested at the event. Though, lifeguards had to help 210 people out of rough surf. 

"I will work with staff and the Law Department to put together a set of proposals that we believe will be most effective in dealing with high impact beach events that include not only Floatopia, but also spring break and other times when we witness huge crowds on the beach," Morales concludes. 

His office will prepare a more detailed report with recommendations to be presented at the April 27 commission meeting. 

Here's Morales' full letter:  

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