Pumps lose power, Miami Beach flood control system ‘overwhelmed’ by torrential rain

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Some Miami Beach residents are complaining the massive amount of money city officials spent to prevent flooding went down the drain. The torrential rain Tuesday is generating a major concern. 7’s Brian Entin investigates and joins us live from Miami Beach.

Resident 1: “Oh my, this is my garage!”

Miami Beach streets looked more like rivers, Tuesday.

The water rose fast, flooding parking garages and apartments.

A day later and the cleanup was underway.

Resident 2: “It’s probably ruined.”

Cars soaked and tow trucks busy on South Beach.

Businesses are also dealing with a mess.

Michelle Pacheco, restaurant owner: “The water came into the restaurant … and I think it was flooded up to here.”

Within minutes of the torrential rain, the entrance to Sardinia Restaurant in Sunset Harbor looked like this.

And what makes the owners of this restaurant, and others on the block, so upset is they say the flooding was supposed to be fixed.

Michelle Pacheco: “The pumps were not working properly.”

The pumps are part of the city’s $400 million project to combat flooding and rising seas.

The excess water should have ended up in the bay.

Brian Entin: “So the water will go into the drain?”

Susy Torriente, Assistant City Manager: “Yes, the water will go into the drain.”

Ironically, that’s what the assistant city manager told us hours before the storm hit.

But this is what happened instead.

7News obtained a letter from the public works director to the mayor, Tuesday night, addressing what went wrong.

Letter: “This event was significantly higher in intensity than our system is designed to handle.”

Seven inches of rain per hour.

Eric Carpenter, Miami Beach Assistant City Manager: “The system was overwhelmed.”

Overwhelmed and without power.

The power went off during the storm, and some of the new pumps stopped working.

Brian Entin: “What is the point of the pumps if there is no power and no generators?”

Eric Carpenter: “Well, the pumps themselves obviously need power to function.”

So why no generators when storms can obviously knock out power?

Eric Carpenter: “I am unhappy to report that we hoped to have permanent generators out at two of those locations, but we were in a protracted negotiation with the contractor.”

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has spent years talking about the new storm water system. Here he is back in 2014.

Mayor Philip Levine: “We are installing pumps citywide, on a very well orchestrated, well organized plan to keep our city dry.”

The mayor wasn’t available for an interview Wednesday, but in a letter to residents he blamed “bureaucratic paralysis” and called the delay in buying generators “extremely frustrating.”

Resident 1: “Thinking about moving somewhere else.”

Resident 2: “I’m already tired of the blah, blah, blah. You know what? You have to focus, and you have to get it done.”

The mayor says he is not making it a priority to install permanent generators.

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