After Irma: Unprepared

Allison Strasius, staff writer

Despite a week’s notice prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irma and a grand total of $3 billion spent over 11 years by Florida Power & Light to “strengthen” power lines, the homes of over 10,000 people fell into darkness once the Category 1 storm made landfall.

The $3 billion spent by FPL supposedly contributed to the strengthening of 700 power lines of important facilities like hospitals, burying 60 power lines underground, clearing vegetation from 150,000 miles of lines, inspecting 150,000 poles per year, and installing new meters that will possibly help predict and prevent loss of power in the future. This began in 2006.

In spite of this, according to a recent Miami Herald article, nearly 4.5 million of FPL’s 4.9 million customers suffered from power outages. This included 92 percent of accounts in Miami-Dade County, even though Hurricane Irma hit Miami at a far lower force than anticipated. The city, warned to expect a Category 4 hurricane, ended up suffering a Category 1 storm instead. During the evacuation statements, many residents were forced to book hotel rooms—if they could find availability.

A week and a half after the storm passed, 1,780 customers in Miami-Dade and Broward still had not regained power, according to FPL. Residents who did not expect this lengthy period of discomfort also did not anticipate the possibility of being forced to stay in hotels, thus making finding availability difficult. Packing everything up at the spur of the moment – and bringing pets along as well – created widespread frustration for south Floridian residents. Multiple customer lawsuits against FPL were filed as a result.

Miami residents felt ignored after almost two weeks of suffering with power loss and no sign of any electrical workers arriving to restore power. Desperation became apparent.

Collapsed electrical poles and power lines prompted extensive problems in the city as well. Exposed power lines ignited previously untrimmed trees, leading to a rapid domino effect of destruction. Some resident’s backyard shrubbery caught fire after live wires fell onto it. If this happened during the hurricane, emergency personnel were not able to come out and resolve the issue due to the dangerous conditions of the storms. Homeowners were forced to deal with these issues on their own. However, had these large trees and vegetation been trimmed ahead of time, this damage could have been avoided.                                                                                                                          

Now, weeks after the destructive Hurricane Irma made landfall, Miami still suffers the consequences of inadequate preparation with debris scattered just about everywhere. Miami-Dade services only recently made it out to suburban streets to pick up massive piles of destroyed vegetation, furniture, and more as main roads were given priority. These piles inconvenienced many drivers as well as Palmetto students walking to school, encountering blocked sidewalks. Beyond the mounds of debris inconveniencing people, they also could result in dangerous accidents on the road.

Hopefully Miami will learn from this experience and prepare for major storms more adequately in the future. One thing’s for sure – thank goodness Irma fell short of expectations. Who knows how the city would suffer if the hurricane hit us as a Category 3 or 4.