Carvel today has buy-one-get-one-free to benefit Hurricane Matthew relief

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Carvel today has a Buy-One-Get-One Free Cone Day at all Florida shops to help collect money for The American Red Cross to help those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew response: West Palm Beach self-evaluates

 

 

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WEST PALM BEACH — It wasn’t exactly a breeze. But City Administrator Jeff Green and Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Diana Matty said the city’s new storm response procedures stood the test of Hurricane Matthew.

“This was really our first chance to have a real-world drill, to run our whole EOC system and see how it shook out. It went really well,” Green said. Those things that didn’t work well didn’t have an effect on the community but will be looked at to see how the city can correct them, he said.

Matty got promoted to oversee emergency operations in the summer of 2015 and immediately met with Green. One of his priorities was to get the city up to speed with FEMA’s National Incident Management System (NIMS), which spells out municipalities’ responsibilities as far as training and reporting.

The city is required to follow those procedures if it’s to be reimbursed for storm damage, Green said.

Since then city staffers have spent thousands of man hours taking classes, coordinated by the city, including classroom work and on-line instruction. Most recently, staffers attended disaster assessment training, where they learn how to assess damage, and whether the damage qualifies for reimbursement, and whether it should be categorized as “major,” “minor” or “affected,” the different levels, and how to coordinate a response to that damage through the Emergency Operations Center.

That training is coming into use now, as West Palm Beach – and other cities – submit assessment amounts to the county, since it’s the county that interfaces with FEMA.

To be sure, West Palm Beach has had emergency plans for years, but Matty said her time has been dedicated to getting city staff more trained in the past.

The city’s overall emergency plan as well as individual departments’ plans have been sharpened, she and Green said. Logistics people, damage assessment people, the many city departments, department heads and assistant department heads work together in a more coordinated way now. At the EOC, virtually every city department is represented, with high level staffers manning computer terminals, communicating with their staffs, and conferencing with county officials for storm updates.

“It’s all about communication,” Green said. “Having all the information at our disposal so we can make good decisions. That’s what Diana has done: created a structure the way NIMS is set up…. This was our first real chance to see that in operation.”

The city’s new Open Sky radio system worked well and had no downtime during Hurricane Matthew, he added.

Not everything went perfectly, the city administrator said. But the structure and procedures worked well, he said. “For this to work, you have to have the right people in the right positions. During a storm you have to make a lot of decisions on the fly and all the decisions can’t wait to go through every single level of our structure.

“So we had our sanitation people making decisions about sanitation. We had our police chief and our fire chief making decisions about deployment of police and fire staff. We were all involved in those decisions but a lot of those decisions were made at that level. I was happy to see people making those decisions did a good job in that role. That’s the biggest thing I was happy about.”

Negatives? “A lot of minor things,” Green said. They’ve made a list of problems are addressing them one-by-one.

For example: The only wind speed monitor was located at the EOC. It would have helped to have one at all fire and police stations, to have a better sense of conditions throughout the city, from the waterfront to the western reaches. “We’re going to fix that,” Green said.

Another problem, maybe not so minor: fuel deliveries to the city fleet. The city had contracts in place to make sure gas would be delivered for its police, fire, sanitation and other vehicles. But the contractors didn’t deliver, he said.

“We expected a delivery Monday and the day before the storm and we didn’t get them…. The contractors were supposed to deliver and they didn’t.” That’s not unusual during a storm but the city is considering solutions, whether having another backup or more fuel tanks.

Inside the EOC one thing that made communications challenging is that staffers relied upon individual, small computer screens, Matty said. That made it hard for storm managers to get an overall idea of where city responders, resources and incidents are. The solution will likely be to install a large, non-electronic, erasable incident map, she said.

The city also needs to collect contact numbers for nursing homes, so that city staffers can better respond to the city’s most vulnerable residents, particularly if generators go down.

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A lot of calls came into the city’s non-emergency hotline, 561-822-2222, about people needing help putting up storm shutters on their homes. The city’s housing services director, Armando Fana, is being tasked with coming up with a way to help in those cases, possibly by having the city coordinate a force of volunteers.

At the same time, neighbors need to help neighbors rather than just rely upon the city, Green said. And a lot of that did happen. “I heard so many good stories. That’s the kind of thing I really like hearing. The community really needs to help itself.”

Matthew put the two-year-old EOC, in a fire station on Congress Avenue just south of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and the Palm Beach Outlets, through its first real test, other than Tropical Storm Erika’s near-miss in August 2015. The center worked well as a communications center, and housed eight officials the first night of Matthew, 14 the next night, Matty said. That included Green, Mayor Muoio and others top administrators.

Other than downed tree limbs, the city escaped serious damage, as the hurricane eased away at the last minute. The only incident of any kind in West Palm Beach was a living room fire caused by a candle, in a home not far from the EOC.

The public needs to know a few things about hurricanes, the assistant fire chief said.

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For one, don’t put tree trimmings and other debris out on the street just before a storm, she said. The city won’t be able to remove it in time.

For another, hurricane shutters need to come down immediately after the storm passes. Otherwise, if there is a fire, firefighters have a hard time getting in and residents will have a hard time escaping.

Residents also should sign up with the city’s “Reverse 9-1-1” system, which is called “Code Red.” It’s a way the city puts out important emergency information and relays it to residents’ through phone messages and internet texts. Sign up for it by going to codered.com on your computer or phone.

The final bit of advice is to take storms and storm preparation seriously, Green said. “If they don’t take it seriously, people can die.”

Hurricane Matthew: Getting back to normal in West Palm Beach

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Mayor Jeri Muoio, right, in the city’s Emergency Operations Center

“Little to no damage” are the words of the day, from West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio.

Of the city’s 10 damage assessment crews, four reported back that they’ve seen little or no damage, and six more are still out and about but also say they see few problems.

A tree hit Fire Station 4, but caused minor damage, and that’s a station that’s about to be torn down to build a new one anyway, the mayor said. No other city property, including the downtown docks, was damaged.

No flooding in Pineapple Park or elsewhere, she said.

Garbage pickups that were cancelled Thursday will be done tomorrow, Saturday. Officials are still deciding what to do about homes that were scheduled for Friday pickups.

 

Traffic lights that were damaged have been replaced with stop signs for now.

The Mandel public library will be open as usual tomorrow, as will city parking garages and the Gaines Park and Pleasant City community centers.

Police resume normal shifts at 7 this evening.

The mayor said she doesn’t know if the city will apply to FEMA for money to cover expenses. Possibly for operational costs, such as running the Emergency Operations Center, she said. The city has been keeping track of its spending. Finance Director Mark Parks was on hand at the EOC with all other department heads during the storm.

The EOC likely will close at 8 tonight.

Until next time…. Hurricane Doris signing out.

 

Riviera Beach deals with downed trees and power lines

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Putting the beached back in Riviera Beach, this boat washed up on the northwest side of the Blue Heron Bridge.

Riviera Beach is among those communities relieved Hurricane Matthew had less bark than bite.

“All we have is the best of it,” Police spokesperson Rose Anne Brown, asked to outline the best and worst of the city’s storm experience.

The city’s assessment team has found “very little damage,” other than streets that had trees down, she said. All those trees have been cleared away. The public beach also emerged in fine shape, Brown said.

The city experienced power outages, some of which were continuing as of 12:15 p.m. on Friday. “Everything has been given to FPL,” which has told city officials that power will be completely restored by the end of the day. “We’re holding them to their word,” she said.

 

Public bch is fine. Still assessing up around onds.

Rose Anne Brown, spokesperson.

Hurricane Matthew: Singer Island’s Tiara has better luck this time

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Now…
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…and then. The Tiara condominium tower on Singer Island.

For Riviera Beach’s Tiara condo tower, rising 42 stories above Singer Island, hurricanes Frances and Jeanne proved the worst of times.

The back-to-back storms ripped right through the building in 2004, in one side and out the other, leading to a lengthy evacuation and legal disputes.

But on Friday morning, the rebuilt Tiara stood tall, apparently undamaged by Hurricane Matthew, which approached with ferocious power but edged away at the last minute.

 

Hurricane Matthew: Mayor Muoio: ‘We dodged a bullet’

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The dire and worsening predictions of Cat 4 winds didn’t come true in West Palm Beach, where tree limbs snapped around the city, power outages were widespread but not lasting, there was little damage of consequence and no injuries reported.

“We ended up being quite fortunate,” Mayor Jeri Muoio said Friday morning. “We dodged a bullet.”

Crews are out around the city, and officials are asking residents to stay off the roads so the city can clean up.

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Boats still where they left them at Palm Beach Sailing Club.
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Surveying the boats still safely moored in the Intracoastal.
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Did our boats survive the storm? Looking out at the moorings in the Intracoastal Waterway.

“We’re in good shape,” the mayor said. “We’ve basically got palm fronds and some downed trees.”

The city’s tall radio towers appeared to have emerged unscathed. An assisted living facility experienced a minor fire at the 4200 or 4300 block of Australian Avenue but no one was injured or evacuated, the mayor said.

City Hall lost power but got it back, along with the city’s computer systems. There were a few water main breaks but no serious flooding. A few lift stations went down but were powered up with generators.

“We’re very lucky,” she said.

It’s an emergency: West Palm’s EOC goes operational

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West Palm Beach’s two-year-old Emergency Operations Center is getting its first hurricane workout today.

Located at Fire Station #5 on Congress Avenue and built to withstand a Cat 5 ‘cane, the EOC has become workplace and bedroom to dozens of city officials, from Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Administrator Jeff Green, to police and fire chiefs and heads of every major West Palm Beach  department.

Desks are set up for GIS mapping people, Information Techies and officials of Public Works, Logistics, Human Resources, Planning, Development Services and more.

Just off the main room is a call center, where volunteers respond to non-emergency, informational calls to the city’s 822-2222 help line. Calls were pouring in even before the rains began this morning.

One volunteer, Library Supervisor Janice Collins, said calls were coming in from all over the country, sometimes with little to do with West Palm Beach.

One person called from California, for example, to ask what the nearest storm shelter would be for their relative in West Palm. Another called about where her mom in Boynton Beach should go to weather the storm.

It may be just a West Palm help service, said Collins, but “we get the answers they need.”

At a morning teleconference briefing with the county, top West Palm officials were told, “The threat is very significant.” They were told to expect a storm surge at the same time as high tide (12:33 a.m.) and at the same time as top hurricane winds.

The good news, they were told: Despite the relatively high water level of Lake Okeechobee, even a Cat 4 hurricane would not collapse the dike that girds the lake. The dike has been a concern for years and has undergone partial repairs but heavy rainfall puts officials on alert because a breach could cause flooding as far away as Wellington.

Meanwhile, across West Palm Beach, residents were told to keep off the roads past noon. When winds hit 35 miles per hour, cars are banned from driving in the city.

Marinas have cleared out and construction sites have been shut down, from Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in the west, off Haverhill Road and Military Trail, to Bristol Tower, a luxury condo site on South Flagler Drive near downtown.

Some gas stations are running on empty, with plastic bags on their nozzles, and others have lines. Publix markets have been busy. Employees at the Publix on Roebuck road said they hadn’t been told when they’ll be closing up shop.

As of noon, the day looks cloudy but almost normal. Fallen palm fronds litter some waterfront streets

 

Hurricane Matthew: What you need to know in West Palm Beach

Wind speed forecast for West Palm Beach:

  • Noon: sustained 29 mph, gusts to 40 mph
  • 9 p.m.: sustained 52 mph, gusts to 72
  • Midnight: sustained 78 mph, gusts to 97 mph
  • 1 a.m. Friday: sustained 85 mph, gusts to 105 mph
  • 6 a.m.: sustained 46 mph, gusts to 64 mph
  • Noon: 29 mph, gusts to 40 mph
  • 5 p.m.: 21 mph,, gusts to 29 mph

Governor Scott says, “evacuate, evacuate, evacuate,” if you live in coastal areas. 

“Don’t take a chance,” Scott said. “A small movement can mean a lot. That’s why we have to prepare for a direct hit.”

Last minute items:

Publix stores east of 95 will be open until noon, west of 95 will be open until 2 p.m.

Closings:

Clematis by Night is, of course, cancelled for this evening. See a full list of closures and cancellations.

Shelters:

If you’re heading to a shelter, you may want to bring some warm clothes, because they AC is working full blast at one West Palm refuge.

Find a full list of shelters throughout the county here.

More reading

Hurricane Matthew: the docks at dawn

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Most boats had left the city docks, but a handful remained.

At sunrise, wind was starting to build and the city’s floating dock had a gentle bounce to it, as if sensing the hurricane’s approach.

Mayor Jeri Muoio said city officials met at 7 a.m. to coordinate the response of various departments: operations, logistics, finance and planning. A curfew is under consideration.

“Everybody’s waiting,” she said, adding that a hurricane looks more likely now than just a tropical storm. “Everything’s under control, waiting for things to happen.”

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Track hoes locked down for the duration at the Bristol Tower condo construction site on South Flagler Drive, just before dawn.

Cars will not be permitted on the roads after winds hit 35 miles per hour, probably around noon, she said.

Zone B — the barrier islands — have been evacuated.

Meanwhile, the media has descended, from near and far. The mayor said she’s been contacted by CNN and MSNBC, among others. TV reporters from Fort Myers planted themselves on the city dock before sunrise.

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An officer fortifies himself at Bradley’s on West Palm’s waterfront, before sunrise.

 

Hurricane Matthew: You can still get your coffee fix at Subculture in West Palm

Matthew isn’t stopping Subculture’s baristas from throwing on their tees and showing up to work this morning. In an Instagram and Twitter post published last night, the specialty coffee shop announced they will open at 7:00 a.m.  “even if for just a couple hours.”

Subculture Coffee shop on Clematis Street. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)
Subculture Coffee shop on Clematis Street. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

Just last week, our Food Editor, Liz Balmaseda announced the Reader’s Choice winner for the best coffee, in brew and concept, around townYou voted for Subculture Coffee, the small-batch roaster and hipster concept that welcomes you with dim lighting, a decorative hand-written menu complimented with fun drawings on an entire wall, outlets for each of your devices and cups of the good stuff made from beans harvested in interesting, faraway places like Panama and Ethiopia. Who knew?

Dunkin’ more your speed? Find out how long you can get your caffeine fix.

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Go get your fix before winds pick up and roads get wet. For the latest updates on Hurricane Matthew on our WeatherPlus blog.


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Twitter: @subculturewpb

Instagram: @subculturecoffee

Facebook: @subculturecoffee

Address: 509 Clematis St, West Palm Beach, FL 33401