Flooding forces dozens to FL shelters

Voluntary organizations set up shelters, rescue mobile home residents

BY VICKI DESORMIER | HALLANDALE BEACH | December 18, 2009


Winter is normally the dry season in South Florida.

Tell that to the dozens of people flooded from their homes in Broward and Dade counties on Friday. Unseasonable rains pushed waters past overburdened storm drains into the streets, over lawns and into houses. Some reports showed flood waters in downtown Miami where residents walked knee-deep in water.

On Friday afternoon, the Broward County Chapter of the American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Police Department on Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach for those who could not safely return to their homes because of the water. Volunteer Ken Hernandez said that 39 people signed in as soon as the doors opened. More were expected as people returned home to find their homes inaccessible.

“It’s not the kind of devastation we find during hurricanes, but there are a lot of people who either can’t get to their homes because the streets are flooded or who have found water in their houses,” he said. “We are expecting a few dozen more by tomorrow.”

For now, plans call for the temporary shelter to remain open through Saturday, but the plan is subject to change depending on the amount of rain the area receives over the next 24 hours.

Hallandale Beach and Aventura, north of Miami, were the hardest hit areas. As much as 14 inches of rain had fallen in those areas as of Friday afternoon.

According to Aventura Police Chief Steve Steinberg, more than four dozen cars had been hauled from the streets by noon on Friday. The cars had flooded out and had to be hauled out of the way so they wouldn’t obstruct the roadway.

And to make things worse on Friday, there was an unconfirmed report of a tornado touching down on Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. According to Rusty Pfost of the National Weather Service, the storm was not predicted, though conditions were right for the formation of a tornado, there was damage consistent with a tornado, but the touchdown has not yet been confirmed.

The Central Dade chapter of the Red Cross said they had a call from volunteers to the north in Broward County.  Members of a local church were helping to evacuate residents from the Bamboo Lakes mobile home park. An additional shelter may be opened to accommodate those flooded out of their mobile homes.

Florida Power and Light reported hundreds of power outages across the region, but said they were still able to restore power quickly. Crews were working hard to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, Charlotte Miller, the area’s external affairs manager said.

Rick Easterline, pastor of the Coral Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church said that several members of his church were planning to go into the flooded communities on Saturday to see what they could do to help. Unlike storms with high winds, the continuous rain has caused flooding, but little other damage.

“We might have to wait until the water goes down before we can help,” he said. “We’ll do what we can when we are able to do it.”


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