Living in Greater Downtown Miami, construction cranes are a ubiquitous part of our landscape. Our city is booming (pun intended). Over the years, I have seen the booms spin in the wind, like massive weathervanes, as they are supposed to do. But in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma’s Florida landfall, when she was still a Cat 5, there were many voices raising concerns about the potential dangers during the storm.
A few developers did remove their cranes, but most remained in place. As the path of Hurricane Irma shifted, downtown Miami residents breathed a sigh of relief. The cranes, we were told, are built to withstand winds of 145 miles per hour. The further west Irma traveled before coming ashore in Florida, the lower the likelihood of those wind speeds became.
Three Cranes Collapse
Saturday evening, all of the cranes I could see from my balcony were uniformly pointing west, marking the direction of the wind blowing in from Biscayne Bay. I could hear the chains slamming against the crane atop Vice Apartments over the wind, but didn’t see any cause for alarm at that time. Yesterday, as Hurricane Irma moved across the Keys, Miami experienced tropical storm force winds with gusts approaching 100 miles per hour. This is well below the 145 miles per hour the construction cranes are reportedly built to withstand. Yet, just before 10:00 a.m., my daughter and I heard a very loud crashing sound. We were speculating as to what caused it when we saw the first report that the crane across the street had collapsed. In the hours that followed, reports of two or three more cranes in Greater Downtown Miami had collapsed. Video was posted showing what appeared to be the hook block on the crane across the street crashing into the building, sending chunks of concrete flying with each gust of wind.
This morning, the debris along NE 3 Street between Biscayne Blvd and NE 2 Avenue told the harrowing tale. We could see pieces of the jib on top of the partially constructed building, twisted cables and other parts hanging from the damaged mast. Pieces of concrete, wood and metal are strewn across the College/Bayside MetroMover station and the street. Most frightening was the smashed operator cab that fell from the top of the crane, somehow narrowly missing both our building and the MetroMover track to land in the alley. Another part of the crane punched through the wrought iron gate of the MDC parking lot.
I don’t know what the answer is, but the fact remains we were told these cranes can withstand winds to 145 MPH. Why didn’t they? Do we need more stringent inspections of the construction sites? Should the cranes be dismantled before future hurricanes? Are there other solutions? What do you think?