Suspected tornado damages inland South County
By Larry Barszewski
Coastal Palm Beach County turned out to be the right side of Florida to be on as a monster Hurricane Ian pounded ashore near Fort Myers on Sept. 28, although the massive storm’s reach still felt a little too close for comfort.
Beach residents had only to look a few miles to their west, where a suspected tornado spawned by Ian downed trees, overturned cars, blew out windows and ripped the roofs off homes in portions of Kings Point west of Delray Beach.
Meanwhile, in Boynton Beach, tornado warnings were issued and the city experienced the types of damage we’ve come to expect from hurricanes: downed wires and trees, flooded areas, large pieces of debris in the streets and broken traffic lights.
As the near-Category 5 storm’s effects began to be felt in the county, coastal police stayed on top of the situation.
“What everyone is doing now is making sure people aren’t roaming around and making sure traffic is flowing and roads aren’t flooding and people aren’t illegally parking to visit the beach,’’ Ocean Ridge Police Chief Richard Jones said. He doubled his department’s staffing to six officers per night starting Sept. 27 because of hurricane concerns.
Delray Beach put up an inflatable barrier, called a boom, at the north end of Marine Way on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway to hold back flooding there. “The [dam] is helping, but the water is still coming up through the storm drains,” resident Genie Deponte said.
County schools and most local governments, beaches and parks closed as Ian neared the state. Thousands of Palm Beach County residents lost electrical power.
Florida Power & Light spokesman Peter Robbins said the situation here could have been worse, but that “without a doubt, our line hardening and investments in our infrastructure help improve overall reliability, including during storms and severe weather.”
As Ian came ashore and started its path northeast across Florida, South County residents could be forgiven for feeling relief at what they had missed.
Some coastal towns reported light flooding in certain areas, but nothing impassable.
South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer was able to watch the roiling ocean crash against the sea wall in front of her condo at the Imperial House, knowing that everything in town was fine.
“There’s no power outages or downed trees or limbs,” Fischer said just hours before Ian reached Florida’s Gulf Coast and the worst here appeared to have passed. “Everything is pretty good right now.’’
Staff writers Jane Smith, Mary Thurwachter, Joe Capozzi, Joel Engelhardt, Tao Wolfe, Mary Hladky and Steve Plunkett contributed to this report.