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Hurricane Irma Causes Cranes to Snap

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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Three cranes have snapped in the wake of Hurricane Irma, adding to the damage already caused by the storm's Florida landfall.

The first boom snapped at around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday (Sept. 10), soon followed by another in a neighborhood two miles north, along with a third hours later located near a Fort Lauderdale condo.

Crane Damage

Last week, according to the Miami Herald, officials warned residents who live near cranes that Irma could prove to be dangerous. When the storm hit, there were 20 cranes within city limits.

At the time, Maurice Pons, the deputy director of the building department for the City of Miami said in a statement that he would not advise staying next to a site that had a construction crane, noting that though the cranes are certified to withstand a hurricane, that only covers up to Category 4, or 145 mph winds.

After Sunday morning's incident, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado emphasized that the city would consider stricter codes for the cranes in the future, even though expenses for building projects for the city might take a hit.

“It's development in the future versus tropical storms or hurricanes,” Regalado said. “We just cannot gamble on the wind.”

The booms did stay attached to the cranes throughout the storm, however.

The first crane breakage occurred near Miami’s Freedom Tower, at the Vice apartment building. The boom was still connected to the tower by a cable as of Sunday, but officials still warned those living nearby to seek shelter in their own buildings on sides facing away from the crane.

The crane at condo Gran Paraiso, located in the Edgewater neighborhood and the location of the second breakage, had been properly secured before the storm hit, said Brad Meltzer, president of Plaza Construction.

“The crane's boom was nevertheless damaged due to high winds. Plaza will cooperate with all governmental bodies, as well as the crane supplier and engineers to investigate and establish repair requirements to put the crane back in a state of good repair,” he added.

The Related Group, the developers of both projects in the Edgewater neighborhood and the Fort Lauderdale condo, where the second and third cranes snapped, respectively, did not respond to a request for comment by the Herald on the second incident.

With the third crane, authorities had difficulties reaching the site due to downed trees, making site assessment somewhat limited.

Other Damage

According to the Herald Tribune, more than 60 percent of Sarasota County is without power, along with at least a few reports of downed power lines in Manatee County. In all, more than 3.5 million people in Florida are without power.

Other counties are reporting similar damage with downed trees and power lines, along with extensive flooding and nonfunctioning traffic lights. Officials in Hernando County have closed off a number of roads to account for both flooding and downed power lines, and warns that the power lines may not be de-energized.


Tagged categories: Construction; Cranes; Disasters; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; Safety

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/12/2017, 8:56 AM)

The article neglects to mention that Miami-Dade passed ordinances in 2008 specifically for this situation (cranes required to meet higher wind load standards for hurricanes) - the Florida Association of General Contractors, Florida Crane Owners Council, Inc., and Construction Association of South Florida successfully sued and got the higher standards rolled back by court order.

Comment from H. J. BOSWORTH, (9/12/2017, 10:07 AM)

One developer - and all three were their's??? Hmmmmm?

Comment from Jesse Melton, (9/12/2017, 12:14 PM)

At issue in the 2008 ordinance was the duplication of Federal standards and the fee and penalty structure. State and local government can add rules specific to their own needs, but they can't duplicate Federal standards and charge you for it. The entire ordinance was a blatant cash gateway and had nothing to do with safety. Which is why it was struck down.

If you read the ASCE article they cite, and the crane safety standards referenced therein, you'll see that the cranes already exceed the 175MPH sustained wind velocity in the HWHZ zone that encompasses Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. Federal law requires the 145MPH rating, so that's all the crane designers and owners test to, but that does not mean that 145MPH the mechanical limit of the crane system.

If the ordinance was actually about safety it could have be re-presented to the legislature with the increased minimum wind speed as the focus. But that hasn't happened. The bulk of that legislation was directed at everything except the cranes themselves. Crane inspector liability insurance, recurring psych evaluations for operators, increased penalties for noncompliance, the list goes on and there are fees and penalties for every single part of it. There's no money in it without all those things, so there's no point in the ordinance. They know full well the cranes exceed the calculated stresses in that zone, even at the higher wind speeds.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (9/12/2017, 12:21 PM)

Tom, it seems that this is a common occurrence, regardless of who puts in the additional safety requirements (Miami-Dade for cranes and hurricanes, OSHA and silica and so many other examples). Some contractor or contractor association will take it to court and generally win, delaying or scrapping it all together. The result, cranes failing during hurricanes and folks getting silicosis and lung cancer and changes to safety taking decades to happen. Yes there is a cost to doing things right....but folks seem to lose sight of the much higher real cost (dollars and lives) of not doing it right. - Michael

Comment from Jesse Melton, (9/12/2017, 12:30 PM)

@H.J. Bosworth: As much as I dislike real estate developers, hoisting and rigging for big cranes isn't within their purview. Big cranes are their own entity; owned and operated by 3rd parties with safety compliance being the responsibility of yet another outside party. There are strict regulations in place that prevent the various interests from becoming entangled. While there certainly does appear to be a common factor here it'll be the riggers, inspectors or perhaps even the crane manufacturer, who has the answers.

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