The morning after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida, Miami New Times staffers are canvassing the area to scope out the extent of the damage. Follow along all day as we update this report.
6:30 p.m. Miami-Dade Public Schools are "unlikely" re-open this week as the schools work overtime to clean debris, restore power and make sure facilities are safe, says Dr. Martin Karp, a School Board member. Karp says in a Facebook post that no decision has been made for certain yet but that FPL won't even have a timeline for restoring power to the schools until Wednesday or Thursday. Here's part of his update:
There are several factors we must consider before we can re-open schools: 1) Access: We must ensure there is access to our schools. We have downed/inoperable traffic lights, trees, debris, etc., 2)Restored utilities: a majority of our schools are without power. Out of 700 electrical meters, we have 400 down. FPL, with whom we are in constant communication, has prioritized the school District, but will not be able to provide us with a restoration timeline until Wednesday or Thursday. 3) Central IT system is operational but we are experiencing connectivity issues with 170 of our sites, mainly due to power outages. 4) Workforce readiness: many of our employees traveled out of the area to escape the hurricane. As of 3:30pm today, 16 schools are still being used as shelters. We expect them all to be closed by the end of the day. The county will be transferring the remaining evacuees (around 50) to a county facility. Additional cleaning staff will be deployed to schools that operated shelters. At this time, it is unlikely we will be able to re-open this week.
3 p.m. Wondering when your power is going to come back on? It's gonna be a while. As of noon, 818,330 out of a total 1.1 million customers in South Florida were without power.
Statewide, the number without power is in the millions. That means Florida Power & Light has its work cut out for it:
Silagy: This is largest restoration army in our company’s history & could be 1 of most challenging restorations our country has ever seen— FPL Newsroom (@FPL_Newsroom) September 11, 2017
1:30 p.m. Restaurants and grocery stores are slowly reopening around town as electricity is restored and generators are fired up, but locals desperate for some hot food or just a cafecito are creating huge lines almost everywhere that's open.
Hundreds of people gathered outside of Miami's famed Versailles Restaurant near Little Havana for a hot meal and some strong, sugary Cuban coffee. Lines stretched around the corner and into the hot sun, but many were willing to deal with the wait for ropa vieja, roast pork, and braised oxtails.
"I'm tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I need cold water and something hot," shouted Blanca Galbes.
As Publix on 48th Street and Biscayne was about to open, a security guard asked about 50 people to form a line. An assistant manager came out and told the crowd, "Fried chicken and wings will be ready in 20 minutes. One chicken per person. Please be nice or you will be thrown out."
A line instantly formed for the chicken as a smaller one formed to get freshly baked bread. Strangely the cooler with frozen ice cream cakes was also busy as people grabbed the frozen treats to take home.
— Laine Doss
12:45 p.m. Inside Jimmy's Eastside Diner, where the climatic scene of Moonlight was filmed, Edgewater native Stephen Gamson sipped a cup of coffee late this morning. His apartment survived Irma OK, but he needed some normalcy after sitting behind hurricane shutters for two days.
Gamson is a regular at Jimmy's who comes in four to five times a week, so he drove over on the off chance he'd find the place open. Sure enough, Dennis, the restaurant's owner, welcomed him and others from the neighborhood in for coffee.
"We're getting back to normal bit by bit," Gamson says over his coffee.
Jimmy's isn't actually open for business, but Dennis brewed free coffee for anyone who showed up and tried to cook a few meals for people who needed it. He drove around trying to pick up some employees this morning, but it was hard with downed trees everywhere.
His wife Angie fed liver and onions with fries and broccoli to an elderly regular — his first hot meal in days.
— Laine Doss
Noon. Dinner Key got hammered by Irma's storm surge and winds. Boats are toppled onto docks, and many are wrecked together in the harbor.
11:00 a.m. Little Haiti took a hard hit from Irma's winds. Large trees are down around the area, and some houses are badly damaged.
10:30 a.m. Marlins Park took a hit from Hurricane Irma. Photos from the scene show a sizable piece of the roof's siding blown off.
A team spokesperson tells New Times that Marlins officials are still assessing the damage. But to the naked eye, it looks to be mostly an aesthetic blow to the ballpark.
Outside the park, a debris field of downed trees and fallen street signs littered the area. But the ground in front of the Clevelander had become an impromptu phone charging station. A handful of residents from neighboring apartments without power sat at outlets at the base of still-standing trees outside the ballpark.
Frank Levya lives in the neighborhood and lost power at 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Though his family made few preparations once they learned the hurricane was moving out west, their household sustained no damage.
"I stayed up. I couldn't sleep," he says. "Came here around 3-ish, 4-ish in the morning, went around to see if any power (outlets) worked, none of them did." He went back home for some time and headed back out to charge his phone at Marlins Park around 8 a.m."
— Celia Almeida
8 a.m. Across South Florida this morning, locals are waking up from whatever fitful few hours of sleep they managed in unbearably hot bedrooms closed in by hurricane shutters and heading outside to see just how badly Irma messed up their neighborhood. The good news is that few buildings seem to have taken severe damage; one apartment lost its roof in Edgewater, and three huge cranes toppled off condo towers. But the vast majority of homes survived.
The bad news is that millions of tree limbs and trunks and other debris are littering roadways all around town, making transit nearly impossible. And 5.7 million people statewide woke up this morning without power; it will likely be weeks before everyone is back on the grid.
Soon there will be fights — over who's getting power first, about who is to blame for lax building codes on cranes and problems with shelters and emergency transportation. But for now, South Florida just needs to dig itself out.
Schools and many businesses are closed on Monday, and Miami-Dade County is extending it's evening curfew tonight. Miami Beach, meanwhile, says cars won't be allowed back on the island until mid-afternoon on Tuesday as officials assess damage and clean debris out of the streets.
In general, state and local officials warn residents not to try to get anywhere by car unless it's an emergency —and definitely to wait on returning to evacuated areas until they've been deemed safe.
Wait for direction from local officials before returning to evacuated areas. Storm impacts can continue well after the center passes.— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) September 11, 2017
There's good reason for that order. New Times reporters who have braved the roads this morning have found them nearly impassable.
Downtown, the flood waters have receded, but many trees and stoplights are down. Despite the damage, a few drivers ventured out this morning.
As for Irma, the storm is hitting Jacksonville this morning after significantly weakening overnight as it moved over land; the storm's eye crossed into Florida earlier than forecasters expected, sparing the Tampa region the worst of the effects. As of 5 a.m., Irma was still officially a hurricane with 75 mph sustained winds, but the system will likely be downgraded to a tropical storm later this morning as it moves through North Florida and into Alabama and Georgia.
South Florida is likely in for another windy and fairly unpleasant day, but the worst of the storm has certainly passed.
The biggest question to answer today is just how badly Irma affected the Upper and Middle Keys, where the eye of the Cat 4 storm passed early Sunday morning. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office has imposed a curfew from dusk until dawn to assess damage, and early reports are that many houses and buildings were destroyed in the area. Gov. Rick Scott will fly over the Keys with the Coast Guard this morning.
“We don’t have a comprehensive insight into what the damage is,” Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon told reporters yesterday. “We will work on those at first light. I don’t have any numbers on fatalities at this point.”
Everglades City, in remote Southwest Florida, also took a severe hit and has been cut off from first responders:
We just tried to get to Everglades City, but it's completely cut off by a flood. Fire crew nearby says no one has come in or out— Brett Murphy (@BrettMmurphy) September 11, 2017
There will soon be opportunities to help. Volunteer Florida is already organizing locals who want to help and the Florida Disaster Fund has started raising money to aid victims.
But this morning, the best thing to do is probably just to take stock of your home, to check on your neighbors and to wait until its safe before heading onto the roads. And don't forget to breathe a sigh of relief that the worst of the storm missed mainland Miami and Broward.
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