Home Emergency Management News A Study in Contrasts: Cleaning Up from Irma in the Florida Keys and Miami

A Study in Contrasts: Cleaning Up from Irma in the Florida Keys and Miami

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

An often unsung aspect of rescue and recovery is the cleanup that follows a natural disaster. The first relief efforts are always to assist the victims of these disasters and to provide them with shelter, food and medical treatment.

But the secondary work – the physical cleanup – is important, too. That includes:

  • Repairing downed power lines
  • Clearing fallen trees and shrubs
  • Fixing damaged roads, bridges and tunnels

State and Federal Agencies Work Together to Recover Boats

In the Florida Keys, a major effort is underway to recover more than 750 boats that sank or were displaced from their moorings by Hurricane Irma in September. The effort is a combined state and federal operation, the Miami Herald reports.

So far, 762 boats have been recovered from waters between Key Largo at the northern end of the archipelago and Key West at the southern end, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Steve Lehmann told the Herald.

Lehmann said, “A lot of these numbers are increasing because more owners are coming in and agreeing to take responsibility for their vessels.”

The effort is called the Emergency Support Function 10 Florida Unified Command. It’s a joint operation of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The 87 people working in the Keys ESF-10 sector outnumber those in similar operations in Miami, St. Petersburg and Jacksonville combined, according to the Herald.

Reducing Environmental Damage Is the Primary Focus of the Florida Keys’ Boat Recovery and Removal

The primary focus of the joint operation is to reduce environmental damage from boats leaking gasoline or other fuel and to prevent accidents caused by sunken vessels that have become hazards to water navigation. Boat owners can agree to take responsibility for salvaging their boat or have the option of turning it over for removal and disposal, the Herald explained.

Lehmann says, “There is no set deadline to finish. The job is done when it’s done.”

Planning for Irma in Miami Helped Mitigate Damage

The Miami area fared better than the Keys, V. L. Hendrickson reported in the upscale real estate business blog, Mansion Global.

“Construction workers went into overdrive, cleaning up and clearing sites, pouring concrete to secure formwork, and lashing down anything that could go flying into the air in the 180-mph winds of the Category 5 hurricane,” Hendrickson said.

These pre-storm efforts took years to put in place. Miami area real estate experts say the planning is one reason the city is well on the way to recovery. “The newer buildings were literally unscathed,” said Gil Dezer, the president of Dezer Development.

Although there were some felled trees and other issues, “nothing happened to the buildings themselves—no broken windows, no flooding,” Dezer added. “In some ways, it was a case study for hurricane preparedness. The newer buildings were literally unscathed.”

Real estate suffered “very little damage,” echoed Jay Parker, CEO of Douglas Elliman Florida. “In some ways, it’s highlighted our state’s preparedness for this kind of natural disaster.”

‘Hurricane Andrew Code’ Helped Ensure Buildings Could Withstand Hurricanes

The new, stricter building code regulations were established in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane that wreaked havoc across Miami-Dade and neighboring counties.

The “Hurricane Andrew Code” covered everything from building foundations to windows, which must be made to withstand large-missile impact.

Start an Emergency & Disaster Management Degree at American Military University.

David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."