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The South Florida Roundup

Hurricane Isaias Expected To Test Flood Projection Projects Installed After Hurricane Irma

Irma flooding
Miami Herald archives
Hurricane Irma sent a four to six foot storm surge across parts of Biscayne Bay and flooded Brickell Avenue.

South Florida is bracing for the impacts of Hurricane Isaias this weekend.

In its latest advisory, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for Boca Raton up to the Volusia-Brevard County line. A hurricane warning is in effect south of Boca Raton up to Hallandale Beach, as of 5 p.m. Friday.

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Isaias is the first hurricane to test resilience efforts in South Florida, put in place after Hurricane Irma in 2017. The forecast for Isaias includes several inches of localized rain and storm surges of three to five feet from Biscayne Bay north to Palm Beach.

The storm and water come during a wetter-than-normal July, and some water storage areas are full.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson talked about flood protection projects ahead of the hurricane with Alan Dodd, city of Miami director of resilience and public works. 

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: What does your department expect from this storm? What are you preparing for?

ALAN DODD: We know that we're gonna be having a significant amount of rain. We've been spending a lot of time checking our stormwater system, trying to make sure it's as clean as possible where we have hotspots and trying to prevent those flooding points from occurring. Second, we expect that there's going to be very strong winds. There'll be down branches and trees that will be blocking the road. We have teams that are prepared to go out and help to clear the road, working with the Emergency Management Department.

It's very much about preparation before the storm event gets there. - Alan Dodd, city of Miami

And the stormwater pumps? Tested and working? Backup power? Can you reassure those folks that rely on those pumps even during heavy storms?

Yes, we have 13 storm water pump stations that the city manages. In the last 48 hours, we've gone out and tested every single one of them. If they have a generator, we'll make sure that the generator was operational. Some of them don't have generators at the locations. So we have portable generators that could be moved to where they need to be. We have pre-positioned some generators throughout the city and also some portable pumps in key places in the city so that if we have to respond to flooding problems, we'll be able to do that as well.

What's changed since Hurricane Irma with these preparations now for this storm?

The biggest thing that has changed for us is the emphasis on the stormwater system, on preventive maintenance, to make sure that pump stations are up and running, that we have backup power, that we go through a deliberate process started several months ago to identify where those hotspots are, and that we're cleaning them. That we're trimming branches from electrical lines that could cause people to lose power. It's very much about preparation before the storm event gets there.

Miami voters okayed a bond program in 2017 that includes $200 million for projects to protect against sea level rise and floods. How has that money helped protect areas today for Hurricane Isaias?

The Miami Forever Bond did provide $192 million for storm water efforts. We've only spent a small portion of that, so far. As you know, the first tranche of it was $58 million, but it was a smaller portion that went towards the storm water. What we have been doing is really design work in most areas. We have done about 25 smaller flooding projects to alleviate hotspots. But those are small projects and only a couple of million dollars of that money has been expended, so far.

We are expecting to finish our stormwater master plan at the end of this year. And that really gives us the roadmap to some much bigger neighborhood-sized projects to address the long-term flooding challenges in the city. And that's where you'll see a lot of those Miami Forever Bond dollars being spent.

The transcript of this interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.