28 percent of Floridians would ignore evacuation orders for next hurricane, study says

The moment Hurricane Irma passed and the all-clear was given, dozens of Floridians who evacuated began working their way back home. 

In Florida City, dozens of Florida Keys residents lined up in their cars for days, waiting for roads to clear so they could travel south. 

People who had left the state also began driving to Florida. 

In total, about a third of the state’s population left during the storm, and according to a new Mason-Dixon poll, if they had to do it again,  28 percent would not evacuate, even if they were ordered to leave. 

Firefighter Martin Seneterfitt doesn’t agree with those who decide to ride out a storm after an order is issued. 

“In my professional opinion, ignoring evacuation is the height of selfishness,” said Senterfitt, who is also the emergency management director for Monroe County. “There are so many places that, if you would’ve stayed, you would’ve died. It is always easy to come back after the fact and look at your home and say, ‘I would’ve been fine.'”

 As a career firefighter, Senterfitt says that many people who refuse to leave forget about the first responders in their communities.

“It pushes the first responders to take incredible risks with their own lives to help save the people who ignored,” he said.

Senterfitt said it’s so imperative for people to listen, even if it means spending an extra couple of  days on a family member’s couch.

“Even to this day, the right choice is to move out of the way of a hurricane,” Senterfitt said.

Follow this story

FPL asks to add monthly surcharges to cover Hurricane Irma costs

Despite leaving thousands in Florida without power for weeks following Hurricane Irma, Florida Power & Light will ask residents to pay surcharges each month through 2020 to help cover costs.

The SunSentinel reports FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy, announced the proposed $4 montly surcharge to Wall Street analysts on Thursday.

The surcharge would rise to $5.50 a month from 2019-20. 

The Irma surcharge would start in March 2018, following the expiration of surcharges for Hurricane Matthew which hit Florida in 2016.

FPL claims the added fees are necessary to help recover costs spent in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Irma.

More than 90 percent of FPL customers lost power following Irma, with many waiting weeks for electricity to be restored.

The Florida Public Service Commission will make the final decision within 60 days of the surcharge proposal being filed.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, FPL customers are already paying monthly surcharges for two prior storm periods: $3.36 for Matthew and $1.32 for the hurricanes that hit South Florida in 2004-05.

Follow this story

Keys residents, business owners still struggling after Irma

Although there are signs of recovery from Hurricane Irma throughout the Florida Keys, some businesses are still dealing with the storm’s aftermath.

“I feel unemployed,” Jack Callion, who runs a charter boat company, said. “The Florida Keys is a tourist-based economy.”

 Callion relies heavily on tourists to make a living, and ever since Irma, they haven’t been coming in the same numbers.

“We’re service providers and when people think the place is destroyed, they’re not going to come down,” he said.

Callion’s business is based out of Marathon, where some houses destroyed by Irma remain.

“Coming back was just the saddest thing. It’s just so hard to see,” said Megan Gray Stomberg, a Colorado resident who has a home in the Keys. 

Stomberg and her neighbors said they are determined to rebuild the area.

Follow this story

Key West’s Southernmost Point marker restored after Hurricane Irma

If you’ve ever been to Key West, you’ve most likely taken a photo by the Southermost Point marker.

This concrete structure marks the southernmost point of the continental United States, and is one of the most photographed spots on Florida’s famous island.

The landmark’s paint job was defaced when Hurricane Irma came roaring through the Florida Keys in September, making this picture-perfect landmark not so camera ready.

Now, it has a fresh coat of paint and is ready for photos.

The official Florida Keys & Key West Facebook page posted that the famous structure is back open for business thanks to the help of local artist Danny Acosta. Acosta, with the help of artist Henry DelValle, was able to repaint the graphics after Public Works employees restuccoed and primed the surface.

Key West and the Florida Keys encourage all tourists to come and visit, in hopes of building their local infrastructure. 

Follow this story

Miami-Dade County hopes to clear last of 3 million cubic meters of debris left by Irma

It has been more than a month since Hurricane Irma slammed into South Florida, battering the area with winds and rain for two full days.

And crews in Miami-Dade are still clearing off a tremendous amount of debris.

“We had an estimated 3 million cubic yards of debris, that’s more trash than we collect in an entire year,” said Gayle Love, of the Miami-Dade County department of solid waste management. 

Just to give a little perspective – 3 million cubic yards of debris is more than 900 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

 And that debris is brought to a site with  trucks.

The trucks deposit the debris in big piles, and then they’re sorted because what authorities here in the county are finding is that there are many extra things other than vegetation — inculding mattresses, sofas  and even playground equipment.

Once all that extra material is picked out, the mountainous piles of waste are ground down and shredded before being trucked out to another non-county-owned site. 

The county has gotten through about 2.6 million of that estimated 3 million cubic yards of debris.

And they’re working hard to finish the rest.

“The process does take time, we always ask people to be patient, we really do encourage their patience and appreciate their patience,” Love said. 

 Communities with private roads must execute a Right of Entry agreement that will allow Miami-Dade County or its contractors to enter communities with private roads and begin debris removal.

This process costs about $130 million, but they will eventually be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

In  the next two or three weeks, the county says they will begin a second pass back through the entire county to collect whatever is left over. 


Follow this story

911 calls paint frantic picture of Hollywood nursing home after Irma

The emergency calls to 911 operators from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills started on Sept. 11, and only grew more urgent over the next two days.

Fourteen residents have died after the air conditioning stopped working in the days after Hurricane Irma.

The 911 calls made by staff members paint a picture of how frantic the situation was in the center during the air conditioning outage.

One caller said that a “patient is a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patient. The doctor noticed, because we don’t have any air conditioning so I saw her slouch over. I realized she’s not breathing, so I check her. She’s just barely breathing. Her fingers started to change colors, slightly blue.”

That caller went on to tell the dispatcher that the patient was 84 years old, had a blood pressure reading of 118/68 mmHg and was in cardiac arrest.

Another caller said that their patient was, “breathing distressed, about to code.” 

In one call a  dispatcher mentioned the amount of calls coming in from the center.

“You guys called already about this? Or this is a new call?” the dispatcher said.

It was a new call for a different patient. In all more than 140 people were evacuated from the facility, which has since been shut down.

Eight residents died on Sept. 13 and six have died since.



Follow this story