Floods byproduct of Hurricane Irene

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | MIAMI | October 16, 1999


MIAMI (Oct. 16, 1999) -- The sun was out brightly and breezes were

soft in southwest Florida Saturday after the area tangled with

Hurricane Irene Friday, but as the storm left the Sunshine State,

disaster response officials in the Carolinas were preparing for more

flooding.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area averted another major disaster even

though Hurricane Irene passed directly overhead Friday. Disaster

response teams spent the day Saturday assessing what little damage

they could identify.

Irene was a very wet hurricane, dumping up to 20 inches of rain

during a 48-hour period causing low-land flooding especially in the

western portions of Dade and Broward Counties. State agriculture

officials said the flooding caused millions of dollars of damages to

Florida farmers.

The storm cut across the state from west to east and Saturday evening

was located just off the coast in the Atlantic about 200 miles south

of Charleston, SC. The forecasted path of the hurricane could bring

it close to Wilmington, NC by Sunday night and cut across the same

part of eastern North Carolina devastated last month by floods

spawned by Hurricane Floyd.

North Carolina's governor, James B. Hunt, issued a disaster

proclamation Saturday night as officials in at least three coastal

counties opened shelters. In Brunswick County, in southeastern NC,

officials announced a voluntary evacuation of residents living within

a half-mile of the Intra Coastal Waterway.

Fortunately, in South Florida, Hurricane Irene's winds just ranged

from 45 to 80 mph. Winds did uproot trees, tossed signs and littered

yards with branches, and blew off a few roofs but did not appear to

have caused widespread damage.

Irene was blamed for the death of five Fort Lauderdale area people,

who were electrocuted. A mother, her two teenage sons and their

friend were electrocuted last night after walking near their home

into an intersection with a downed power line submerged in water.

Minutes later another teenager was electrocuted from fallen power

lines as he walked down another street only miles away from the first

fatalities.

Faith-based agencies spent the day assessing damages. Bill Rhan,

disaster coordinator the state's United Methodist Churches, said

Saturday afternoon he had not received any reports of serious

damages. He said every United Methodist Church in the state was ready

for the aftermath of Hurricane Irene if needed. Many had volunteers

in place in case churches were needed as shelters.

Judith Bunker, director of Florida's statewide Lutheran Disaster

Response, was in the process of contacting the 30 Lutheran parishes

of Dade County, Saturday morning. She reported flooding and a power

outage at the St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Homestead, 50 miles

south of Miami, and flooding at the Lord of Life Lutheran Church

Preschool in the Kendall area of southwest Dade County. Bunker said

she was going to assess Broward County Lutheran churches on Sunday.

In an on-site visit to the Lord of Life Preschool, Pete Windhorst,

one of the congregation's leaders, said the preschool buildings were

inundated with a few inches of water. Damage was limited to carpeting

which was being vacuumed of its water. Flood waters had receded and

only half the parking lot was under about 4-inches of water.

Windhorst said flooding in the Kendall area was caused by an

overflowing water canal, which could not drain the 12 inches of rain

fast enough on Friday in an eight-hour deluge. Low-lying residential

and shopping areas in southwest Dade county continued to be flooded

about hubcap deep on Saturday, making travel slow. He expected that

much of the flooding would recede during the next low tide.

Friday, most airlines suspended service to south Florida. Miami

International Airport was closed for over three hours. Over 1.4

million residents spent the night without electricity, which was not

scheduled to begin to be restored until Saturday morning. High

schools football games, theater performance and concerts were

postponed as high winds whipped the metropolitan area from noon until

midnight.

President Clinton declared a state of emergency for Florida,

authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Administration to

coordinate disaster relief efforts with state officials. The

emergency declaration covered 28 counties from Key West to central

Florida.

Posted Oct. 17, 1999


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