Find better ways to get residents out of
Miami-Dade, and then back in
Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
September 22, 2017
Hurricane Irma came with every possible warning and
the longest period of anticipation ever provided by modern technology.
We had hurricane-tracking planes and expert models ad infinitum on the
job. I can’t imagine that technology can do much better in the future.
However, if we suffered like we did, in terms of power outages, from
being 100 miles from the eye, how much worse would that suffering have
been if we were hit head-on?
There are two specific preparedness
issues on which we can all agree:
Powerlines must be either
underground or at least above ground on sturdy,
reinforced concrete columns. There is really no
argument here. Having wooden poles to support power
grids is living in the Stone Age.
Facilities for elderly residents,
nursing homes and assisted-living facilities must
have stand-by, working generators. Most high-rise
condos and hotels in Miami have generators for
emergency lights and elevators. Some nursing homes
and ALFs don’t have them, and if they do, their
capacity is insufficient to provide air
conditioning. When you combined that deficiency with
shuttered windows, you got tragic deaths such as the
ones in a Hollywood nursing home.
Suffice it to say, there now are even more people who
live in the Florida Keys who most likely will not follow future
evacuation orders. They were hampered in their efforts to repair and
rebuild by the constraints imposed post-hurricane that kept them from
accessing their homes. Clearly, there are lessons for government
officials who issue evacuation orders, emergency curfews, and other
limitations to freedom of movement:
Evacuation orders must include highway
counter-flows. When Miami-Dade orders evacuation of 600,000
residents, you would think it would be coordinated with the state of
Florida so that all or most lanes of I-75 and I-95 would be
immediately used for one-directional travel. Forcing people on the
highways north without gas supplies is a dereliction of duty.
Traffic signals must be immediately replaced by
temporary measures. Miami Beach did well by placing portable stop
signs at every intersection. Miami-Dade County did well by providing
police officers at many major ones; Miami also mobilized large
numbers of public service aides, though they should be more visible
and better trained.
One of my most enduring memories was driving back to
my place in Miami Beach (after three couples and five grandchildren took
over my city condo) and being stopped for ID on the MacCarthur Causeway.
One officer saw my county ID and yelled to the other: “Hey, we have a
county commissioner here.” The other one answered: “County commissioners
can go anywhere they want.”
It made me wonder: If a county commissioner and the news media can go
pretty much anywhere they want, why can’t a regular citizen who wants to
secure his residence after a hurricane do likewise?