Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lapses and Collapses

About an hour ago, I saw a random tweet about a building collapse in Miami.  I assumed it was downtown, maybe one of the hotels.  But when I went to a local news website (WSVN), there was nothing, so I thought maybe it was a hoax.

But then I saw this story in The Washington Post.  Surfside is not far from the hotel district in Miami, but it is more northern.  It is on a barrier island.  The article says that the structure was built in the 1980's and that condos there have been listed for $600,000+, which is more upscale than some beach condos, but not the high end luxury units.

In short, it's not a slummy kind of building, the kind that everyone knew would collapse at some point.  So, why did it collapse?

At this point, we don't know.  At this point, rescue teams are trying to get people out.  As my brain wrapped itself around this strange news, I had several thoughts:

--I'm glad we don't have EMS classes on my campus today, because it's a safe bet that most of my instructors are on the site of the collapse.

--Construction from the pre-Hurricane Andrew era, especially the early 80's, is notorious for having issues.  Still, this kind of collapse seems to signal something more major.

--Could it have been an explosion of some kind?  Maybe a gas line?  Was someone constructing something in a kitchen, like meth?  Storing fertilizer improperly?  Those last 2 seem less probable.

--It's interesting that my thoughts did not go immediately to terrorism, but to the instability of beachfront property in a time of sea level rise. 

--As I've watched condo towers being constructed on every vacant lot, some of them quite small vacant lots housing quite large towers, I've wondered about the stability of the ground underneath.  As Ft. Lauderdale has had more and more sewer/sewage problems, I've wondered about the wisdom of adding more and more to a problem that has yet to be solved.

--Are these problems even solvable in a time of sea level rise?

--We are moving to a high rise later this summer, so my thoughts did go there.  But we will not be on a barrier island.  Our building was built in 2007, and its withstood Hurricane Irma.  Of course, the building that collapsed has survived hurricanes too.

Again and again we are reminded that although we may think we've attained a level of safety and security, the grounds can shift beneath our feet and rather quickly we're sliding into the sea.

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