In the Aftermath of Irma, Residents and Businesses Begin Cleanup

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As the howl of Irma’s winds slowly faded away, the hum of generators took its place in Wilton Manors and all across South Florida.

By Monday, residents and business owners in the Island City had turned on their generators. Much of the city was without power. That kept most businesses closed, but some were able to open their doors to customers. In Broward, FPL reported 593,950 customers without power. Most intersections were without power but a generator at Five Points powered the traffic signals there.

“As long as we got ice,” said Nick Berry, co-owner of Rumors Bar & Grill. Berry’s bartenders were serving drinks and the Party In Your Mouth food truck was in the parking lot. Across the street, Rosie’s was also open. So was Pizza & Gelato.

“We’re able to feed a lot of people who don’t have any place to go.” Berry added that working with no power was also preferable to sitting at home with no power. “I might as well try to put a smile on someone’s face.”

It worked for roommates Kate Banks and Mae Chunhasoonthorn. They hadn’t prepared for the hurricane because they traveled to Tampa, thinking they would be out of the storm’s direct path and wouldn’t need supplies. But when the storm turned they headed back home and to a place with no real food. Banks said she only had a bag of chips. So, a well-done hamburger was a welcome meal. “It was awesome.”

Antonio Dumas, owner of To The Moon, was giving away free packages of melted ice cream and also said he wants to make his customers happy. “I sit in the car until someone comes to the door.” He’ll also be happy if he gets a generator in time to save his wall of chocolate, which gets closer to melting every minute there’s no air conditioning in his store. “I’ve got $30,000 in chocolate here. Hopefully, [I’ll have a generator] tomorrow.”

Glen Weinzimer, co-owner of Bona Pizza, was less hopeful about the food in his restaurant’s freezer. On Monday, he was giving away salads, lobster ravioli, fish, deserts and anything else he knew would go bad and couldn’t be served. “I’d rather give it away than throw it away.”

Besides power, most businesses apparently got through the storm without serious damage. Many sings were damaged or destroyed and downed trees blocked some portions of roads and sidewalks.

In the city’s neighborhoods, it looked to be a very similar situation – houses and other types of residences seemed intact and relatively-unscathed. But a seemingly never-ending parade of downed trees, powerlines and other debris littered the streets. But at least one group of trees, a row of Australian pines along Northeast 20 Street, survived at least one more storm. Much to the delight of their biggest fan – Constance Ruppender, who lives on the street. “I’m pretty happy.”
Ruppender said the trees were planted in 1932 to act as a wind break for the golf course that was located on what is now Richardson Historic Park & Nature Preserve. She said the city has tried removing them on several occasions, but that she and the other residents of the street love them too much and are willing to accept the risk that one day they might fall.

Like much of the rest of the city, Ruppender was without power.

In an email from the city, Mayor Gary Resnick said that he participated in a conference call with other Broward mayors and the president of FPL. “FPL is performing assessments and have thousands of people on the ground committed to restoration, removing downed lines and poles. Please do not undertake efforts to address downed poles or lines. More people were injured and killed in prior hurricanes after the storm from restoration efforts than from the storm itself. The City is reporting all downed lines and poles to FPL, and City staff and first responders are undertaking tremendous efforts to keep everyone safe and restore services in our city.”

City officials also announced that the commission meeting of Sept. 12 had been cancelled.