Hurricane Irma: How did it affect South Beach?

Hurricane Irma’s trail of destruction through the Caribbean left over 100 people dead, and devastated the region for years to come. It was also the worst Atlantic storm to hit the US in over a decade, bringing back bitter memories of Katrina. Across Florida, the hurricane inflicted an estimated $83 billion in damage, according to an estimate from Moody’s. Over 10,000 homes across Miami-Dade were left without power, and the entire community was in shock.

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South Beach was no exception; while being spared of the worst the storm had to offer, the community is still reeling from the disaster. Businesses have been damaged, tourism numbers temporarily slumped, and the environment has been battered.

The first casualty in South Beach was the shoreline, which lost much of its sand to erosion during the storm. The recently completed $11.5 million beach widening project on 53rd Street is now barely a distant memory, with the shoreline now noticeably thinner. In some places, the storm threw sand against beach-side condos and hotels, leaving the beach narrow and uneven. Nonetheless, experts say the situation could have been significantly worse if the beach widening project had never been carried out.

“It did its job to prevent further erosion on upland properties,” the beach’s environmental director Margarita Wells told the Miami Herald.

Luckily, South Beach’s infrastructure went largely unscathed – at least compared to other regions hit by the hurricane. The trees that fell during the storm have already been cleared, and businesses that suffered minor damage are getting back to work. However, a number of local icons were damaged. Epicure Market is indefinitely closed, while both the River Yacht Club and beloved Dashi were still shuttered at the time of writing. A spokesperson from the yacht club said their main building had been deemed unsafe after being damaged by the storm, and part of their seawall had fallen. Meanwhile, one of the most visually disturbing incidents took place at the site of the former Ireland’s Inn, where a crane collapsed. Over at the Stonybrook Apartments complex, a roof reportedly collapsed, forcing residents to evacuate.

Despite the damage, South Beach is resilient, and will bounce back. In fact, within days of the storm passing, restaurants were already re-opening and tourists were being encouraged to return. After all, South Beach and the rest of Miami is heavily dependent on tourism, and everyone is pulling out all the stops to keep the industry alive and well. In 2016, tourists brought $25 billion into Miami’s economy, with around 70 percent of that being attributed to international visitors.

To encourage visitors to return, the tourism bureau has launched the #MiamiNow campaign, which aims to showcase the best of Florida. Businesses are offering special deals to visitors, including bargains on hotels and resorts. Meanwhile, business owners are doing everything they can to get back to normal.

“You don’t go into a battle thinking you’re not going to get it,” Mango’s Tropical Cafe proprietor David Wallack recently told ABC News. His cafe has already reopened, and others like it are quickly getting back on their feet. So even after the worst of disasters, South Beach isn’t giving up.