Food News

Pubbelly Boys, Troubled by Rains and Flooding, Keep Watchful Eye on Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew is threatening South Florida, with the National Hurricane Center issuing a hurricane warning from the northern tip of Miami-Dade County up Florida's entire coastline, and beyond to Altamaha Sound in Georgia.

The storm, which is expected to be a Cat 4 when it reaches landfall in Florida, will bring winds of up to 130 mph with it. But for residents of certain Miami Beach neighborhoods, water poses a much more imminent threat.

This past Monday, Pubbelly's Jose Mendin posted an ominous video to Facebook.  In it, he shows his restaurant's patio flooded with what looks to be six inches of water. The chef and Pubbelly partner wades through the area, stopping to show his sneakers and legs immersed in water that looks to be shin-deep. The video, which has been watched over 20,000 times, was also shared with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine . In his post, Mendin says:

Ok now am really worried after 2 years of endless construction in Miami Beach look at Sunset Harbour after 10minutes of rain!!! I am praying that this hurricane dont come near here or we will be completely fucked, and our houses, and our business. This is unreal!

Pubbelly's Andreas Schreiner says that, even after the City of Miami Beach's massive street repairs and  water pump installations, flood waters are still rising. "We've been here for six years and flooding has always been a Miami beach issue. We've always had flooding."

After the massive overhaul that will cost the city approximately $400 million dollars, nature continues to take its course. According to Schreiner, the pump system that was installed does work — until it doesn't. Then it fails miserably. "When they finished, everything's been draining properly. Then the last few times it rained really hard the whole outside was flooded. It's about two feet of water and it's a total swimming pool. The water comes up from the ground and the top from rain. It looked like something from out of the bible. "

Schriener said that, with water coming in from the doors — and even up out of the toilets — customers were trapped inside the restaurant. "The pressure from the outside caused the doors to slam shut. Customers had to wait until the water levels dropped. We comped tickets for their inconvenience."

Schreiner says that he suspects that the giant pumps installed by the city can't handle the amount of water from a big rain — let alone a hurricane. "Something's not functioning properly. It [the pumps] either didn't work or started to work late. Everything is interconnected and water was gushing from manholes in the street." Schreiner said that the water drained rapidly around 1 a.m. — possibly because the pumps finally kicked in.

Indeed, the pumps installed by the city might not be able to stand up to a hurricane. In May 2016, New Times reported that the installed pumps lack backup generators, so if a hurricane knocks out power, the expensive system could fail, “It is inevitable that sooner or later there will be a major power outage during a time of heavy rain and high tides,” engineer Dwight Kraai wrote in a letter to Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and City commissioners. “Without backup power generators, there will be catastrophic flooding.” New Times called the City of Miami Beach, but did not receive a reply at the time of this story. 

With Hurricane Matthew barreling toward Florida's coastline, Schreiner can only prepare as much as he can — and hope for the best. "I'm not concerned about the winds, because we're built to code. Our main concern is flooding. We are under sea level and it's always been one of our main concerns. All we can do is prepare the best we can."

After the prep work, Schreiner and his partners — along with all the other shops and restaurants in Miami Beach — have to leave their livelihoods in the hands of the city and nature. "All I can say is that we're praying this thing stays as far away as possible and that every single pump station is working to 100 percent capacity. That's all I can hope for."

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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