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At War With The Weather: Hallandale Beach Was Hit Hard...Again

By Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper

June 21, 2024

First and foremost, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to those that have lost their belongings and are dealing with repairing their homes. This battle started on Monday with the prediction of 3 to 5 inches of rain. City Manager Earle notified our commission and team that our operational plans were being executed in light of the predictions. Our staff when a rain event is announced mobilizes. Just like at war. The team goes to check on the drains and the equipment. Once again without any warning the 5 inches turned into 20 within less than 24 hours and Hallandale Beach became the epicenter!

This storm was not declared a National Emergency. We were the first city to declare an emergency at 2:30 p.m. The county followed suit around 6:00 p.m. and then the State. This declaration provides funding relief only to the city. It provided emergency equipment and reimbursed cities for operational costs. Sadly, unless there is a loss of 1,000 homes per county FEMA will not provide homeowner assistance.

Knowing this information, on Thursday morning I called the Red Cross. They began to mobilize. I heard from Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz and Senator Rick Scott who both were sympathetic. State Representative Marie Woodson also reached out. The SBA does have business relief but only for commercial properties.

State Senator Pizzo has been amazing. He along with State Emergency Director Guthrie were in our City working with our Staff. Vice Mayor Anabelle Lima Taub also was extremely proactive during the storm. As of Tuesday, Senator Pizzo was requesting through powers in state law to leverage relief from the Florida Emergency Management Relief Foundation FEMAF to help homeowners.

Last year when we had the “Thousand Year Storm” everybody was really taken off guard and was shocked at the torrential rains that inundated South Florida. No one expected a repeat so soon after that event. As we now know after living through not one but two everything has changed.

I need to reassure everyone that our pumping systems are working. Even though they have remote transponding systems we manually check them. In addition, all of our pumps have hospital grade generators so even if there is an electric outage, they work. The capacity of rain just like last year was simply too much for any pumps to keep up with.

Last year the storm impacted mainly the eastern side of town. This storm impacted everywhere but in the Southwest we witnessed flooding like no one has seen before. The Southwest was totally inundated; some homes were under one and a half to two feet of water. Schaffer Canal breached and our lakes overflowed.

Our city has invested in pumping systems in the southwest that were part of a FEMA Grant. We completed that project and are now dredging to increase capacity and flow. After last year we were pleased to see the area did not flood and pumps were doing their job. Not the case this year.

On Wednesday night I questioned our City Manager about what had changed. In my opinion, it is possibly the expansion of I-95 and other work on Ives Dairy Road that may be having an impact. I have asked Staff to thoroughly research what has significantly changed.

I have been asked the question why we cannot simply pump out to the Ocean or the Intracoastal. There are now environmental rules and regulations that focus on not pumping out runoff to our oceans. Obviously, there are pollutants and all types of impacts from stormwater runoff that foul our ocean wildlife and our reefs. The pipes that do connect now are grandfathered in so they can remain in place. With sea level rise and tides they have become less and less effective.

Last summer around the same time I held a meeting and committed to our residents that we would prioritize the Northeast area between Federal and 12th. I brought a project request to the commission who voted to put in our budget expanded pumping. These types of drainage projects take years and they cannot be done overnight. I made sure that residents that attended that meeting were clear of the period.

Our engineers came forward with a smaller project that focused on the two blocks that were repetitive losses. They are now exploring how to connect Second Avenue to the main pumping system. Hopes are this can give relief while the main large project is being implemented.

Now once again, we will need to reinforce on the southwest to understand what happened and what measures can be taken to improve what we already have in place.

We are proactive and continue to reassess our responses. Responses from the state take too long and we have found cities like Fort Lauderdale get attention before others. Next Wednesday at our Budget/Commission Meeting, we will be making amendments to order more pumps and storm equipment. While this costs money we are finally financially stable enough to be able to make these critical investments.

While we pray there will not be another 1000-year storm with climate change and more intense storms heading our way we know that everything has changed.

Thanks to our entire team. They saved over 35 residents. At the height of the storm, they rescued an Autistic lost child. They even rescued pets. We are still doing assessments and debriefings.

As always feel free to contact me anytime with your questions and concerns at email: jcooper@cohb.org. Or at: joycooper@aol.com. I always can be reached by phone or text at: (954) 632-5700. Working for you! Always Have! Always will!

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