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How Well Did Miami Beach Hold Up Against Hurricane Irma?


All right, well let's, bring in a voice from the other side of the bay, Miami Beach. Philip Levine is mayor of Miami Beach, and he is on the line from there this morning.

Good morning, Mayor.

PHILIP LEVINE: Good morning.

KELLY: Thanks for taking the time on what I know must be a tough morning. Tell us how you're all doing. Paint us a picture of what it is like this morning in Miami Beach.

LEVINE: Well, we have a big cleanup effort ahead of us. Let me tell you what's going on. We have, literally, our fire rescue out. We have our vendors, major recovery teams all over Miami Beach, our Public Works departments. And we have a big job ahead of us today. What we need to do is clear our roads. We have a situation. We have trees down all across Miami Beach. We have live power lines. We have gas leaks that are live across the beach.

So we have to go in today, and we need to secure Miami Beach and make sure it's safe for the residents to return to Miami Beach. For your listeners, I ask all our residents to be patient. We couldn't have anyone come in today because, literally, Miami Beach is not drivable. We need to clean up the beach in order for anyone to come back to this barrier island.

KELLY: So you're asking people, stay inside, don't hit the beach, give us today to try to get back up and running.

LEVINE: Not only to stay inside, but we're asking people that have literally evacuated Miami Beach that, you must give us until tomorrow for us to secure the beach to make sure it's actually safe for people to come back. In other words, I - if you - I've driven all over the beach yesterday, last night. We have so many trees down, power lines. As you know, the power is out pretty much all across Miami Beach.

In order to have people come back and make it safe, we need to have our teams. And they're there right now. We are all over Miami Beach cleaning up Miami Beach so that folks can return and be able to actually drive on the roads.

And you know, you hear people get a little impatient, and we beg for their patience because we don't want it to be unsafe. We want it to be safe. We lived through this hurricane. We got very, very lucky. We were very prepared. Now let's finish the job the right way and not allow someone to get hurt just because someone was in a rush to get back to the beach.

KELLY: Do you have a sense, Mayor Levine, of how many people did heed this evacuation order, how many of your people left the city? And with the benefit of hindsight, was that the right call, to tell everybody to leave town?

LEVINE: Well, No. 1, we don't have any numbers. But I could tell you, the day or two leading up to the hurricane, the city was barren. It was a ghost town. It was the first time I could tell you I was happy to see it as a ghost town. Whether it was the right decision - absolutely, 100 percent.

We had a nuclear hurricane - Category 5 - with Miami Beach and Miami in its bull's-eye. If we hadn't done what we did, the results, if it - hurricane had hit directly, would've been absolutely catastrophic. So in hindsight, which is always 20/20, we are 100 percent confident about our decision.

KELLY: What about the people who didn't leave who are in shelters? How are they doing? Do you have enough space?

LEVINE: Yeah. Oh, no, absolutely. So the shelters are not on Miami Beach. The shelters are in Miami-Dade County. And there were plenty of shelters. We have shelters for disabled folks, seniors, for people with pets. So the shelters were available. The shelters were not at maximum capacity. And of course, everything can always be improved. But we think that, as far as Miami Beach is concerned, this was a very, very good run, what happened. All systems kicked in place.

KELLY: And very briefly, what's No. 1 on your to-do list today?

LEVINE: Oh, today is to manage the situation, to make sure that we are moving posthaste to clean up these streets, and make sure our residents can come back as fast as possible and get Miami Beach back up in business.

KELLY: Mayor Levine, thank you.

LEVINE: Thank you.

KELLY: We wish you luck as you ride out the day. That's Philip Levine, mayor of Miami Beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLY WOODS SONG, "UNSTUCK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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