Soaring Cranes, Sign of Miami's Building Boom, Put Residents at Risk Ahead of Irma

John Harrington

The most visible indicator of the building boom in Miami, construction cranes, poses one of its biggest hazards, as Hurricane Irma takes aim at Florida and possibly other southeastern states.

The city of Miami issued a warning Tuesday to Miami residents living in high-rise condominiums or apartment buildings who are considering riding out Hurricane Irma:

Currently, there are 20 to 25 construction cranes in the City of Miami. These tower cranes are designed to withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour, not a category 5 hurricane.

Maurice Pons, deputy director of the building department for the city of Miami, said in a statement he would not advise staying in a building next to a construction crane during Irma. But while the crane’s arm remains loose, the arm’s counterbalance is very heavy and poses a potential danger to adjacent buildings if the crane collapses.

Smaller cranes are laid flat during a storm and do not pose a threat.

Irma is a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 180 miles per hour. Sustained winds of 185 mph were recorded when the storm passed through islands in the Caribbean.

Though it is too early to predict accurately a direct hit on Miami, the city is urging those living in buildings near construction cranes to have a plan in place and to “take warnings and evacuation orders seriously.”

Irma was moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic Thursday morning and was about 95 miles north of Punta Cana. The storm’s center will pass north of the coast of Hispaniola later Thursday, and near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas by evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The tropical storm–force wind field from Irma stretches over 300 miles from end to end and could deliver a devastating punch on Florida over the weekend. Computer models show it could churn near Florida’s east coast by late Sunday.