Miami drowns in floodwaters from a second monster storm

The city of Miami — renowned for its combination of artistic residents, food, theater and nightlife — became the epicenter of a wrenching calamity Sunday, when catastrophic flooding tore through Little Haiti, the capital…

Miami drowns in floodwaters from a second monster storm

The city of Miami — renowned for its combination of artistic residents, food, theater and nightlife — became the epicenter of a wrenching calamity Sunday, when catastrophic flooding tore through Little Haiti, the capital of the Haitian diaspora.

The flooding, and the need for federal assistance, has revived concerns about a changing coastal climate that may reshape neighborhoods as development outpaces dwindling resources.

“If we don’t do something about this we’re going to be fighting an uphill battle,” said Fred Fabiano, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County.

Thirty-four deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Irma, which was the strongest Atlantic storm on record when it hit the Caribbean and Haiti this weekend and then followed it up with a slow-moving, Category 4 hurricane in the U.S.

And a chaotic offshoot of the storm battered the Florida Keys Tuesday, taking the lives of at least six people.

In Miami-Dade, where Hurricane Irma hit three weeks after a category-4 Hurricane Harvey caused flooding, the damage appeared more focused on wetlands than cities. Soil ripped from wetlands in Miami-Dade’s Baker and Sweetwater were mixed with flooding from upper roads, utility lines and sidewalks, raising questions about whether the flood devastation might be just the first of many.

Jose Lobo was one of the many locals left scrambling to rescue his belongings — his wedding dress, his grandchildren’s toys and a box filled with keepsakes — from a flooded condo complex he rents from. “I saw water just rushing,” Lobo said. “Just a little bit, but more and more, you couldn’t even see the tops of cars and nothing but water and sand. It got worse and worse.”

Irma’s fury still hung over areas of Miami-Dade like Cordova, about 20 miles southwest of Miami. Dump trucks were parked all around the area. Michael Anderson, who lives there, said his home took on water like a sink. “The roof came right off,” he said.

Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were bringing in sandbags and other materials for residents to use to protect their homes. About 300 miles to the west, in Monroe County, the Keys, much of the widespread damage had been done.

Robert Smith, who works for the Monroe County government, said firefighters in the airport and medical facility can use jet skis to get food to residents of low-lying areas that were swamped.

R.D. Sousa, who owns a software company in Key West, Fla., had to flee his home due to flooding when the storm hit. At his cousin’s apartment, “everything got sucked,” Sousa said. He had to watch his friends wade to help take food, supplies and a cat to safety.

“All the day it started raining, and it was bad,” Sousa said.

The storm destroyed fish ponds, destroyed rows of billboards, downed power lines and flooded the parking lot of Key West’s Tarpon Springs Barber Shop.

“You walk around here and see a lot of houses with boats in the yards,” said Jimmy McCarthy, a barber at the barber shop. “Most of the people here have boats.”

Those with boats and boats-in-ponds faced the risk of being stranded if the tide rose further, or saw boats get swept away, said Barry Massey, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Office. “People were just worried about what to do, and there were a lot of first responders from other places.”

In Miami, firefighters were working in a water-logged area near North Miami Beach, where flooding was near 2 feet, and where water officials decided there would be no evacuation. Firefighter Joe Lombardo said at least 100 homes had experienced minor flooding, and on one block, three separate homes were flooded.

“The threat from this storm surge could be the scariest thing,” Lombardo said. “I’ve been with the Miami-Dade Fire Department for 28 years, and I’ve never seen this much flooding, for this type of storm.”

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