Hurricane Irma shifted at the last minute. For days, meteorologists had warned Irma seemed to be taking a direct aim at the Miami metropolitan area. But then the storm made a sharper westward shift than expected, sparing Miami while taking aim at the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. Yet just because it avoided a direct hit doesn’t mean Miami is not feeling the effects of Irma. In a testament to how large and powerful Irma really is, the storm sent floodwaters surging into downtown Miami.
Although more than 100 miles from the Keys where Irma made landfall, its strength was still clearly felt in Miami. The Los Angeles Times describes the scene:
Almost horizontal sheets of rain were whipping through a downtown filled with the reverberation of the wind, which seemed to come simultaneously from all directions. It was impossible to stand upright. Darkness descended. Fallen branches and toppled trees lined the streets.
The wind weaponized debris and even coconuts from palm trees, and powerful gusts threatened some two dozen construction cranes dotting Miami.
In an early morning interview, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado expressed the uneasiness that many felt in the city as it seemed to avoid the worst-case scenario but that didn’t mean it was out of danger. “There is a sense of relief because we were told we’d get a direct hit … we’re concerned about storm surge,” he said. “We’re afraid of flooding in downtown.”
The mayor was right to be worried. Videos posted on social media showed how Brickell Avenue, known as South Florida’s Wall Street, turned into a river.
The neighborhood of Edgewater also experienced flooding, according to reports.
Beyond the water itself, the strong winds were causing dangerous conditions in the streets of Miami as authorities told residents to stay indoors after two construction cranes collapsed.