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Flooded Streets Are Not Going Away Anytime Soon

July 02, 2009 By Carlos Miller in Miami: Local News  | 1 Comment

When it rains, it pours, but in Miami Beach, it also floods. Big-time. To the point where cars are damaged, businesses are evacuated and homes are swamped.

It’s enough to damper the well-crafted image of America’s Riviera as well as splash a blemish on the Sun and Fun Capital of the World.

But is anything being done about it?


Supposedly, but not in the near future, which means those who live along Alton Road will still experience major flooding after heavy downpours for at least the next five years.

And judging by the planned improvements that are set to start in 2014 at the earliest, those multimillion dollar renovations might still not make a difference because the plan is to improve the area on 5th Street between Alton and Michigan roads.

And the flooding encompasses that area but much, much more.

Just last month it got so bad that water level along Alton Road between 5th and 10th streets was waist-high. Picture New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Only without the extreme despair.

And the streets between Alton and Collins between 5th Street and Lincoln Road were at least knee deep.


Fortunately, the flooding on South Beach tends to drain in a matter of hours, but the damage is already done if your car, home or business gets flooded.

The planned project is being spearheaded by the Florida Department of Transportation because Alton Road is considered a state road. It will include the construction of 24 drainage wells and 24 pumps along 1.5 miles of roadway.

It also includes the widening of sidewalks to make them more pedestrian-friendly.

In addition, the City of Miami Beach has made its own attempt at improving the flooding problem by adding seven storm water pump stations throughout the city since 2002 at the following locations:

  • 2 on Purdy Avenue
  • 1 on West 20th Street
  • 1 on Prairie Avenue and Dade Boulevard
  • 1 on Bay Road
  • 1 on West Lincoln Terrace
  • 1 on West 16th Street

And an additional six pump stations have been built in the Nautilus Neighborhood, the area north of Arthur Godfrey, but they are not yet operational.

The city also plans on building an additional ten pump stations in the upcoming years in undesignated neighborhoods.

While it all seems hopeful, it won’t remedy the situation anytime soon. And with the rain we’ve been having this year, we’ll likely see more flooding.

And let’s not even think about the possibility of a hurricane hitting Miami Beach dead-on.

But despite this misty outlook, city officials would like to make one thing clear: It is not sewer water flooding the streets after a heavy storm. Just dirty, mulchy water.

“Our storm system drains into Biscayne Bay, our sewer system goes to Virginia Key,” said Miami Beach spokeswoman Nanette Rodriguez.

The problem is that much of Miami Beach is man made; a landfill of mulch that softens and rises during flooding, emitting a foul odor that leads people to believe they are swimming in sewer water.

“Our sewer and drainage systems are two different systems,” she said.


Originally, Miami Beach consisted of the narrow strip of land between Washington Avenue and the Altantic Ocean, so everything west of Washington is landfill.

And because it is at a lower elevation than the area east of Washington, all the water tends to pool up in that area and cause flooding.

During a storm, the water is supposed to flow into approximately 5,000 catch basins throughout the city. From there, it ends up inside 61 miles of underground pipe that eventually lead to 353 outlets that release the water into surrounding bodies of water, primarily Biscayne Bay (check out the diagram below to visualize this system. Click expand it).

But during an intense storm, this system tends to back up, especially because debris ends up blocking the basins.

Which is why we end up with flooded streets.

Of course this little reality is never mentioned in the travel brochures or real estate listings.

And chances are, even if you are visiting, you won’t be affected as long as you stay in the touristy sections of Collins and Ocean drives.

But it’s something to think about if you’re planning on relocating here.


Related Categories: Weather Miami: Local News,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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1 Comments on

"Flooded Streets Are Not Going Away Anytime Soon"

swampthing says:

a moist welcome to the swamp

Posted on 07/02/2009 at 8:17 PM

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