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Miami Region Cleans Up After Hurricane Irma

Sep 12, 2017
Originally published on September 12, 2017 6:06 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

While much of the U.S. mainland that was in Hurricane Irma's path escaped relatively unscathed, many islands in the Caribbean were not so lucky. Elizabeth Smith (ph) is in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the island of St. Croix. She's in graduate school for marine and environmental sciences. Some of her friends' homes on the hard-hit island of St. Thomas sustained critical damage - lost their roofs, flooded.

ELIZABETH SMITH: These houses are concrete houses with steel reinforcements. These are not wooden houses or anything like that. These are houses built for hurricanes with hurricane shutters.

MARTIN: She told us on Skype that she's been helping in any way that she can.

SMITH: I've been trying to secure ferries and find leaving boats between the islands to try and get my friends here. I've set up my spare room in my house trying to house as many people and pets as possible.

MARTIN: Downed trees and power lines have been the big problem in Florida. In Fort Myers, Susan Hughes (ph) drove a couple of miles around her neighborhood to see the damage.

SUSAN HUGHES: There were so many big, old palm trees pushed down. My neighbors have a huge, gorgeous palm tree, and it was just split and thrown everywhere. The palm trees are like toothpicks. They're just everywhere.

MARTIN: NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday. She joins us from Coral Gables, Fla., just outside Miami, where she's been covering the storm and its aftermath. Lulu, what's the situation where you are right now?

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: Rachel, you know, people woke up yesterday to assess the damage to their homes and businesses, and it wasn't pretty in many neighborhoods. You know, Miami is a lush, tropical city, and in some areas there were these huge downed trees blocking the roads. Some areas by the water, like the neighborhood of Coconut Grove, seemed to fare the worst, with the marinas and the boats there a jumble. But, you know, everyone's been affected. There's still 700,000 without power as of last night, though we've seen power trucks busy at work. Still, Hialeah, it's a poor neighborhood, that's still dark in many areas. And it seems it just depends street by street what happened. Lots of traffic lights are down. That makes driving around the city pretty dicey as people navigate the downed power lines and the debris.

MARTIN: Yeah. So presumably people aren't going to work. They're not going to school. You've been in conversations. How are people spending their time? How are they coping?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. You know, they are coping. They are really kind of banding together. I went to visit family yesterday. As you know, I'm from here, and we actually got a flat tire and we needed some help as our jack wasn't up to the task. And first one neighbor came to help, and then another. At the end, we had about seven people pitching in. It's a big, heavy car. And they were swapping stories about the storm, and they were making sure that everyone was OK. And one neighbor gave another neighbor a ride who was injured to the hospital. So these terrible events, Rachel, hurt the whole community, but they do bring people together.

MARTIN: And you spent some time at a local hospital talking with folks who had suffered some injuries in the storm?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. It was absolutely packed. And, you know, authorities tell people over and over, most of the injuries happen after a storm. And at the hospital yesterday, we saw proof of that - a man who had cut his knee with a chainsaw after trying to chop downed branches. Another guy had a serious wound in his cheek from trying to remove debris. I had a friend of mine who cut her foot on glass while clearing her driveway. So, you know, the hospital I was at was frankly overwhelmed with folks needing a lot of attention.

MARTIN: NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro. She's been covering the storm and its aftermath in the Miami area. Lulu, thanks so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.