By Sallie James
Boca Raton is on the road to recovery with many city services returning Sept. 13 as City Hall opened again for business. The city’s mandatory curfew has also been lifted.
Although much of the city remains without power, cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Irma is well underway. Trash and recycling pick up are back to their regular schedules and debris removal will begin Friday, Sept. 14.
City officials ask that residents separate the trees and branches from construction debris into separate piles, and keep the debris away from mailboxes and out of the street.
City staff is still trying to determine how much vegetative debris can be collected on Friday and urge residents to be patient.
City libraries re-opened on Sept. 13, while public schools remain closed the rest of this week.
The field house at Sugar Sand Park remains closed, as the facility lost air conditioning late Wednesday.
Florida Power & Light has been working since Tuesday, Sept. 12 to restore power to all areas of Boca Raton, but is unable to provide specifics for a block or neighborhood, according to City Council member Scott Singer.
“Please be patient,” Singer wrote in a news release. “FPL expects all of Southeast Florida to be restored by Sunday.”
Seven Boca Raton police officers were among a convoy of 51 officers from Palm Beach County who left Sept. 14 for Marco Island and Naples to help in the wake of the hurricane. The two cities on Florida’s west coast were among the hardest hit by the epic storm.
“These folks received some of the worst damage from the storm,” according to a post on the Boca Raton Police Department’s Facebook page. “We know what it is like to be impacted by a significant hurricane and we are happy to assist our brothers and sisters in need. Please keep our Palm Beach law enforcement professionals in your thoughts and prayers.”
Although Boca was spared the devastation of the West Coast, its pristine beaches suffered a severe hit. The storm eroded much of the sand placed on the beach as part of a beach renourishment project and will likely cost millions to restore.
Boca Raton’s Coastal Program Manager Jennifer Bistyga said the city’s dunes took a big hit and the beaches were “deflated,” losing height and width. Still, Bistyga said she thinks Boca Raton’s beaches look better after Hurricane Irma than the beaches that weathered Hurricane Sandy up North years ago.
“You can see the sand bar just sitting offshore and I am confident some of the material lost will come back. Similar to Hurricane Sandy, the loss of height on the beach is usually not recovered naturally by wave action, while the beaches will regain some of the width as the waves work the sand back onto the shore,” Bistyga said. “The recent beach renourishment project acted it was supposed to. There were losses, but if we had not had the renourishment project, the beach conditions and the structures adjacent to the beaches would be in much worse shape.”
Singer warned that many traffic signals are still not working around town and reminded motorists to proceed with caution. Drivers should treat intersections where traffic signals are out of service like a four-way stop, meaning everyone must come to a full stop, he said.