This hurricane season has proved to be one of the most devastating seasons yet as we faced several disasters. While some countries, states and cities weren’t as lucky, Broward County only faced the outer bands of Hurricane Irma as it made its way through the west coast of South Florida. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Broward County focused on providing all efforts for assisting our community in the recovery process. These efforts included opening two of Broward County’s major economic engines, Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale International Airport, as quickly as possible. These two facilities provide the stability and prosperity for our community and, combined, they provide for tremendous revenue while creating thousands of job opportunities for people from all parts of our community.
Additionally, efforts have been made to assess the damage made to Broward’s beaches, which play a critical role in bringing in millions of tourists to our beaches throughout the year. The areas that were constructed with dune structures protected the billions of dollars in upland infrastructure and we are grateful that the project was completed ahead of schedule. Another Broward County division that made an incredible impact before, during and after the hurricane is Broward County’s Animal Care and Adoption Division which provided services in regards to helping displaced pets.
Broward County’s Economic Engines Recover
Broward County’s Port Everglades (PEV) is one of the world’s best kept secrets, being Florida’s largest container port and the third largest cruise port in the world. I had the opportunity to participate in a briefing at Port Everglades only one day after the storm, as the Port Director, Coast Guard and Broward Sheriff’s Office completed a full damage assessment before reopening Port Everglades for business to all marine traffic almost immediately. Three cruise ships arrived, bringing home passengers who were stranded for an additional four days. Three petroleum tanker ships and six container and cargo ships were in port with a number of other petroleum and cargo ships that entered just a couple days after the storm.
All twelve petroleum terminals supplying transportation fuels were operating, loading trucks and delivering fuel to retail stations. All container terminals resumed full operations and all nine container cranes were fully operational shortly after the storm.
Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) is ranked as the 21st busiest airport in the United States with over 33 million passengers expected in 2017. After the storm, Fort Lauderdale International Airport and North Perry Airport facilities were fully operational within days and all scheduled commercial flights at FLL resumed as of September 13th. The airport also set up temporary accommodations in terminals for passengers who were stranded waiting for flight connections.
Broward Beaches Effort
Efforts have been made to assess the damage made to our beaches, specifically the areas that were reconstructed last year. Our environmental consultant is doing a full assessment of the damage to the areas of our beaches that were part of the $55 million Segment II Shore Protection Project. This survey will be used to determine official losses.
However, the beach is narrower and at a lower elevation than pre-storm conditions. The County’s initial rough estimate is an approximate loss of 30 feet of shoreline. Planning ahead, we had our consultant conduct pre-storm and post-storm surveys every 3000’, and we should have that preliminary assessment in the coming days. Additionally, Broward County has submitted a request to the Corps of Engineers for rehabilitation assistance. The damage sustained during Hurricane Irma should be fully covered by the Army Corps. Immediately after the storm, the City of Fort Lauderdale removed the sand from A1A and it was fully cleared within days of the storm. This included initially removing the sand from the roads and then grading the sand back onto the beach.
Broward County Animal Care Efforts
Prior to the hurricane’s arrival, Broward County Animal Care partnered with the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society of Broward County, and South Florida Wildlife to transport 109 cats and 24 dogs out of Hurricane Irma’s path to shelters throughout the nation. The project helped to provide shelter space to house pets that would need sheltering after the storm. After the storm, Animal Care assisted residents to find their lost pets, as well as admitting pets that are being brought into the shelter. Pets that have been abandoned were assessed and placed into the adoption process or transferred to one of the many rescue shelters and organizations that partner with Animal Care to rescue and care for pets in order to help provide a new home for an adoptable pet. It is the goal of the Animal Care staff to ensure that every dog or cat that is now in need can recover from the stress of their current situation, and do anything to either reunite a pet with their owner or pave a pathway to a new and loving home.
Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest natural disasters to hit Broward County in years and it is safe to say that, while lessons were learned, the County also recovered in a timely manner. Broward County’s tremendous economic engines, PEV and FLL, are each an integral part of our community, and they both provided additional services for our community in this time of need. Additionally, I am grateful for the important work that the Broward County Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department has done to assess the damage to our beaches and the amazing services provided by the Animal Care Division immediately after the storm. As a community, we have come together to recover from the damages that this great natural disaster has left behind.
If there is anything that we can do to assist you with your vision for a better Broward, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 954-357-7004. As always, it is my honor to serve you.