Thursday, March 28, 2019

A public meeting on Friday night, March 17th, 2017 in the City of Pahokee.

The next day everyone stopped
and took notice.

It was that night two years ago, when the news got out, shocked all of South Florida and Tallahassee and then shortly thereafter got attention in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

The public in the Glades Region here in Palm Beach County had had enough. No one was talking to them. Public officials and the press and the news media were all focused on the Treasure Coast.

But then after what happened in Pahokee two years ago the public began to re-examine a lot of things like a report issue by Lloyd’s of London from years back and a mostly-forgotten mass grave in West Palm Beach began to get a lot more attention and then there was that article in a magazine by a reporter named Dan Reynolds which is not for the faint of heart. . .

You’ve been warned.

So let’s start this story with some backup information and then to what happened in the Glades Region two years ago and then to the nightmare scenario: the Herbert Hoover Dike failing.

Few want to even think about this possibility just because it is so horrifying. Critics of sending water to the east say there should be a reservoir south of the lake to store water in emergencies. The shoulda coulda woulda scenario.

But there are cities and communities south of the lake too. And any future reservoir capable of storing so much water is far off from being operational and will cost at a minimum $1.5B. That’s ‘B’ as in billion. And that’s just an educated guess.

Everyone knows Rainy Season begins May 15th and Hurricane Season begins on June 1st and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Jacksonville District) will very well have to order water releases again this year east of Lake Okeechobee. And just a few hours later with encouragement from the press and news media the protests will begin east of the lake in Martin and St. Lucie counties to end those water releases and “Send The Water South!”.

However, there are limits to how much water can be sent south. The Corps of Engineers needs to anticipate future water levels in the lake. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) needs to anticipate future water levels in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties druing Hurricane Season. And don’t forget the massive rain events in May 2018. The Rainy Season that year began just on time and the rains were record-breaking. All that water had to make its way south into Lake Okeechobee via the Kissimmee River and other waterways. Massive amounts of water.

There was major front page news in The Palm Beach Post in May 2018 headlined, “Report: Money for flood controls short” by reporter Kimberly Miller. The news was about the shortage of funds “set aside for repairs to levees, canals and water control structures” but one essential part of water control here in Palm Beach County was absent in this article: the Herbert Hoover Dike. The dike, which actually serves as a dam, was not mentioned one single time. This was not the fault of the reporter. There are a lot of ‘moving parts’ in this story. Not even a large sized 500-page book in 9′ type could explain it all.

However, water control structures here in South Florida will most certainly be an issue if the Herbert Hoover Dike should ever collapse because every levee and canal here in Palm Beach County will be wiped out following the floods to follow. The flood waters will then continue further south with nothing in its way to stop it or slow it down.

Further down below in this blog post, following the “Emerging Risks Team Report” from Lloyd’s of London, is a fictional story about a hurricane named “Otto” that struck Lake Okeechobee. Although the story is fictional, it’s not for the faint of heart, especially if you live in low-lying Palm Beach County. And following that fictional story about a hurricane, at the very end of this blog post, is a story about a mass grave in West Palm Beach. That story is not fiction.

Why the public in Palm Beach County became so concerned last year.

To set things up here are the opening two paragraphs from an article published in February 2018 in the Post by County government reporter Wayne Washington, prior to the General Election that year:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson met with Glades officials Friday in West Palm Beach to tout the passage of a budget deal with additional funding that could be used to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.
     Hurricane Irma’s push through Florida last year renewed long-standing fears of what a rupture would mean for Glades residents protected by the dike, [emphasis added] whose construction dates back to the 1930s. For decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has worked to upgrade portions of the dike, but the project has been massively expensive and time-consuming.

And about a recently passed Federal budget,
Senator Bill Nelson said,

     “I’m so glad to meet with the elected officials and the residents out by Lake Okeechobee because they’ve been been fearful that a big storm’s gonna come along and it’s going to breach that dike,” Nelson said during a meeting with Glades officials at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County’s building in West Palm Beach. “This is a real win, especially for the folks out at Lake Okeechobee.”

How did we get here? Let’s go back to March 2017.

Click on this link to read about a community meeting that year in the Glades region as reported by Post reporter Susan Salisbury. Here is the opening paragraph:

“PAHOKEE — In a face-off Friday night at Pahokee High School, hundreds of Glades area residents came out in force to tell Florida Senate President Joe Negron his proposal to build a 60,000-acre reservoir on farmland south of Lake Okeechobee would kill jobs and economically devastate their rural communities.”

The public spoke in the Glades region and they spoke in large numbers: Fix the Herbert Hoover Dike!

From Post reporter Susan Salisbury: “The auditorium was filled to its capacity of 400, and several hundred people who quietly waited outside were turned away. Police estimated the total number of people who turned out at 1,000.”

Have you ever read the Lloyd’s of London
Emerging Risks Team Report”?

“The current condition of Herbert Hoover poses a grave and imminent danger… … [The dyke] needs to be fixed. We can only add that it needs to be fixed now, and it needs to be fixed right. We firmly believe that the region’s future depends on it.

Prepare yourself.

Below is a fictional story.
Not for the faint of heart.
You’ve been warned.

There was a real Hurricane Otto in 2016. But the story below is from August 2013 about a fictional hurricane named “Otto” and what’s called a “Black Swan event”.

“The Day the Dike Breaks” by Dan Reynolds in Risk & Insurance.

“A Cat 5 hurricane strike of Lake Okeechobee
would inundate much of South Florida.”

Use this link to read the entire “Black Swan” story by Dan Reynolds. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Hurricane Otto, a Category 5 hurricane, makes landfall at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2014, just north of Fort Lauderdale. The storm travels northwestward across the state, maintaining Category 4 strength as it touches the southwest reaches of Lake Okeechobee, the 10th largest lake in the United States and the largest lake in the South. The driving rains cause the water levels on the lake to rise, which creates a breach in the lake’s protective barrier, the Herbert Hoover Dike, in the vicinity of Clewiston. Tornados spawned by the hurricane also touch down on the dike, causing two more breaches, near the towns of Pahokee and Belle Glade.
     The lake, at 730 square miles and an average depth of only 10 feet, begins to flood the surrounding communities.
     Eventually, much of South Florida will be inundated.
     U.S. highways 441 and 98, and state roads 715 and 80 are destroyed by the slow-moving water.
     Geographically, there is nothing to stop the wall of water as it spreads out from Lake Okeechobee toward the Atlantic Ocean. It will be weeks before the flood waters recede.
     Evacuations began in heavily populated Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties when the hurricane’s landfall became a certainty.
     But there wasn’t much time.
     Once the dike is breached, the more than 640,000 evacuees in Broward have less than 14 hours to move. Miami-Dade’s more than 936,000 evacuees have less than 13 hours to get out. In Palm Beach County, the window is less than 16 hours and more than 448,000 people need to leave.

What do you think?

Should the focus be on fortifying the Herbert Hoover Dike or spending $1.5B± on a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee?

The “Black Swan” story above is not a theory and it’s not “part science” either. It’s historical record. It happened before.

Did you know there is a mass grave
in West Palm Beach?

Learn more about a man named Robert Hazard and about a storm on September 16th, 1928: “He has made it his life’s purpose to tell the story.”