Irma took toll on trees, not houses

Cat­a­strophic dam­age iso­lated; like 2016’s Matthew, ‘we dodged a bul­let.’

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jane Mus­grave

In less than 24 hours, the most oft-used phrase in Palm Beach County switched from “hun­ker­ing down” to “dodg­ing a bul­let.”

As peo­ple from Boca Ra­ton to Jupiter to Belle Glade emerged from their mostly dark­ened homes Mon­day to as­sess how much dam­age the sur­pris­ingly fe­ro­cious winds of Hur­ri­cane Irma in­flicted dur­ing its re­lent­less 18-hour on­slaught, most were re­lieved to find downed tree limbs, not dev­as­tated dwellings.

Even some of the most frag­ile parts of the county es­caped se­ri­ous in­jury.

“It’s much bet­ter than I

of her home on North­east Fourth Street was ripped off and wa­ter be­gan to pour in.

“My whole life was in ex­pected,” County Comthere,” Deb­bie Jen­nings mis­sioner Melissa McKin- said tear­fully of her wa­ter­lay said af­ter tour­ing the soaked home and ru­ined im­pov­er­ished west­ern com- be­long­ings. mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing Lake Over­all, how­ever, a scene Okee­chobee. at a boat yard near Te­questa

Fear­ing the lake would was more typ­i­cal. While wind over­flow the Her­bert Hoover gusts as high as 84 mph Dike that sur­rounds it, anx- peeled alu­minum walls off ious county of­fi­cials or­dered a three-level boat stor­age an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion of build­ing at the Jupiter Pointe Belle Glade, Pa­ho­kee and Club & Ma­rina, none of the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties boats were dam­aged. as Irma took aim. Many ap­peared stunned

In­stead, like most resi- that dam­age over­all wasn’t dents in the eastern part of more se­vere. the county, downed trees, “I think we were very for­loss of power, wa­ter-soaked tu­nate,” said Royal Palm yards and min­i­mal build­ing Beach Mayor Fred Pinto. dam­age were the main post“It could have been a heck Irma headaches for Glades of a lot worse. All along, we res­i­dents. were say­ing, ‘Pre­pare for the

“I know it sounds cliché, worst and hope for the best.’ but we def­i­nitely dodged I think we got the best.” a bul­let,” McKin­lay said, But, that doesn’t mean life re­peat­ing a phrase count- will quickly re­turn to nor­mal less other county of­fi­cials or that full tally of dam­age used through­out the day. has been made.

The big­gest dilemma for Power re­mains out for many res­i­dents, who were roughly 500,000 county forced to stay home from res­i­dents and an­other 3 mil- work af­ter spend­ing a day lion cus­tomers in Florida trapped in their homes, was Power & Light’s 35-county bore­dom. But even as beer cov­er­age area. and lat­tes start­ing flow­ing at With some traf­fic lights mid-day at Clema­tis Street still out at some in­ter­sec- bars and bistros in down- tions, electric lines down town West Palm Beach, Hu­rand some roads blocked by ri­cane Irma un­doubt­edly downed trees, county offi- left heartache and hor­ror cials or­dered a cur­few from in her wake. dusk to dawn. It will re­main

An el­derly woman in Palm in ef­fect in­def­i­nitely, said Beach was found dead in County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Verde­her home. Three an­i­mals nia Baker.

— a tree frog, a tou­can-like Power out­ages are also aracari and an ot­ter named keep­ing county schools Rud­der — died at the Palm closed at least t hrough Beach Zoo, prob­a­bly from Wed­nes­day. storm-re­lated stress, zoo FPL of­fi­cials said it could of­fi­cials said. take weeks be­fore electric-

Hun­dreds of frail peo­ple ity is re­stored to all homes. re­mained at the county’s But they promised to mount spe­cial-needs shel­ter at the the largest power restora­tion South Florida Fair­grounds force in the company’s and be­cause their lives de­pend the na­tion’s his­tory — nearly on elec­tric­ity to power medi- 18,000 work­ers from 30 cal de­vices — elec­tric­ity that, states and Canada to bring thanks to Irma, no longer power back to the re­gion. ex­ists at their homes. Like­wise, tree limbs home

Fur­ther, for some, Irma own­ers are drag­ging to the was ter­ri­fy­ing. Strong winds street won’t dis­ap­pear anyripped through Welling­ton’s time soon.

French Quar­ter, leav­ing at Trucks op­er­ated by haulers least one mother and daugh- who are ex­pected to flood in ter tem­po­rar­ily home­less. from out of state have to be

A Del­ray Beach woman cer­ti­fied to col­lect the de­bris, was res­cued af­ter the roof said Wil­lie Puz, a spokesman

for the county’s Solid Waste Author­ity.

Trucks will be­gin pick­ing up yard waste Thurs­day but it could take weeks be­fore the moun­tains of veg­e­ta­tion dis­ap­pears, he said. Last year’s near-hit by Hur­ri­cane Matthew gen­er­ated a whop­ping 95,000 cu­bic yards of garbage and yard trash — an amount likely to be far eclipsed by Irma, he said.

“We’ll just keep mak­ing ad­di­tional passes un­til it’s all picked up,” Puz said, adding that de­bris col­lec­tions wouldn’t be limited to nor­mal sched­ules. Reg­u­lar garbage col­lec­tion is to re­sume to­day.

At the same time ad­di­tional power and trash crews are be­ing as­sem­bled, the South Florida Wa­ter Man­age­ment Dis­trict is still as­sess­ing dam­age to flood-con­trol struc­tures in its 16-county dis­trict to re­store wa­ter flow the re­gion de­pends on. Sim­i­lar dam­age as­sess­ment ex­er­cises are be­ing con­ducted by other gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies.

County of­fi­cials said it could be days be­fore a full dam­age as­sess­ment is made so money can be sought from the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency. An emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion is ex­pected to be made to turn on the money spigot.

Bill John­son, di­rec­tor of the county’s Di­vi­sion of Emer­gency Man­age­ment, urged pa­tience.

“We just had a Cat­e­gory 4 storm breeze by us,” he said, re­call­ing Matthew’s wob­ble that spared the county last year.

Then, he added : “We dodged a bul­let again.”

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