Miami Warns Citizens About Tower Cranes During Irma

September 6, 2017

As Hurricane Irma threatens the Miami area, construction companies are taking steps to secure construction sites and equipment. Miami's building boom has also brought about 25 tower construction cranes to the city that pose a unique threat if Hurricane Irma hits.

In a statement issued by the City of Miami Tuesday, Deputy Director of the Building Department Maurice Pons said he would not advise staying in a building next to a construction crane during a major hurricane like Irma.   

The crane jibs (operating arms) are built to withstand winds of up to 145 mph, designed with open lattice work to allow the wind to blow through them, so they can spin around like a weather vane during a hurricane.

However, the greater dangers are the cranes concrete counterbalance weight which is very heavy and poses danger if the crane collapses. As seen during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, a crane on top of a New York apartment building under construction was damaged by high winds and dangled precariously over the neighboring buildings and street. Buildings in the tight confines of the Miami urban area could be at similar risk from Irma. “The crane structure can collapse,” said Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso. “It can either go down and crush whatever is beneath it or fall sideways and maybe damage an adjacent building.”

Construction sites are preparing for the storm, disassembling smaller cranes to lay flat on the ground, as well as securing materials, mobile signage, scaffolding and storage. Minimizing anything that could be turned into flying debris is vital.

The Miami-Dade County area has various hurricane requirements specific to each municipality's needs. Dan Whiteman, vice-chairman of Coastal Construction, told the Miami Herald that building departments of the various municipalities around Miami-Dade County will start sending out inspectors to major construction sites to make sure the proper preparations are being made.

Meantime, Miami-Dade County has not yet issued an evacuation order but city officials are advising people in high-rise buildings to shelter in an interior, concrete enclose stairwell.