The Champlain Towers South condo building, with a loud bang and an almost silent collapse, was demolished Sunday at 10:28 p.m.
A large cloud of dust billowed over Harding Avenue soon after the demolition and fire truck sirens were heard in the vicinity. In the area directly surrounding the site, dust reduced disability greatly.
While officials earlier in the day had said there was no specific time for the implosion, giving a timetable of between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., it was clear it was close to happening around 10:15 p.m. That’s when police cruisers with loudspeakers drove through the shelter-in-place zone surrounding the Surfside condominium site, advising all residents to remain inside their homes.
At 10:28 p.m., three horns in succession were sounded. About a minute later, there was the sound of loud cracking explosives … and then the building collapsed in on itself, as planned.
On top of a Ryder truck about 15 yards from an area hotel, three first responders, either police or fire rescue, cheered.
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The smoke and dust that billowed from the site cleared within about 15-20 minutes.
The rubble pile where search-and-rescue crews were working the past 11 days was covered with a tarp prior to the implosion.
Officials said earlier in the day that rescue operations were due to resume as soon as the air cleared.
Rescuers had been unable to search the western portion of the debris pile closest to the building because of falling debris and the building’s instability.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava had said during the weekend that the demolition team would use energetic felling, which uses small strategically placed explosives.
“This contractor and the subcontractor (are) internationally known. He is one of only about three people that do this in the business. We picked the best of the best,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie said.
Levine Cava said no building evacuations nearby had been suggested, which would include the Champlain East and North towers to the north of the south tower and the Eighty Seven Place condo just to the south.
Guthrie said Sunday there was a high degree of confidence that the building would come down right where they wanted it to come down.
Many of the residents forced to evacuate the south tower left much of their lives in the condo and they have not been allowed in since.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz addressed the curiosity of imploding buildings but cautioned that this situation is different.
“So often, demolitions of buildings are a spectacle — you know, it’s almost like a show. And this particular demolition is certainly the furthest thing from that,” she said, noting that it is a tragic situation for not only those still hoping that their relatives survived but also for those who will lose their belongings. She said the demolition will add to the sorrow of those affected by the condo collapse.
“This is tragic. Not a celebration. Not a spectacle. And we need to think about the loss — the further loss — that the demolition of this building means for all of these families,” she said.
“Those who were forced to evacuate the remaining portion of the building left their entire lives behind. We know that. And we’re deeply, deeply concerned and empathetic to how extraordinarily difficult this time is for them and their families,” Levine Cava said.
Miami-Dade officials urged residents who live within a “shelter-in-place zone” — between 86th Street and 89th Street from south to north and Abbott Avenue and the beach from west to east — to stay indoors. Police even knocked on doors to spread the word.
Levine Cava advised affected residents to close windows, shut doors and switch air conditioners to recirculate indoor air.
“There may be noise and heavy dust in the area immediately surrounding the demolition site. Dust may also drift outside and downwind of the demolition, depending on the weather conditions,” she said.
“This is not an Independence Day like any we have ever experienced before,” Levine Cava had said Sunday morning, adding that numbers from the collapse remain the same: 24 confirmed dead and 121 still unaccounted for.
The issue of possible pets still in the remaining structure was addressed
As far as possible pets left in the building after residents abandoned the structure immediately after the rest of the tower collapsed early morning June 24, Levine Cava said Miami-Dade fire rescue had conducted three full sweeps of the premises, using live traps and drones equipped with thermal imaging.
She said, according to the latest information, there were no animals remaining in the building.
She said fire rescue looked in closets and under beds, in case pets were hiding.
Surfside mayor Charles Burkett calls Esla a ‘blessing in disguise’
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett labeled Tropical Storm Elsa’s trek toward the Florida peninsula “a blessing in disguise” because it accelerated the demolition plan, which was initially forecast to take weeks.
“It’s eliminated a looming threat, a dangerous threat for our rescue workers,” he said.
Burkett said the building’s demolition will potentially open up about one-third of the rubble pile to new access by search-and-rescue teams who are looking for survivors. He also said emergency officials could control the direction the structure falls to the ground, rather than Elsa’s gusts.
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“I’m starting to see this approaching storm as a lucky situation because it forced us into a conversation which has accomplished a lot of good things,” Burkett said.
“We want to make sure we control when the building falls, not a hurricane,” he said.
6 p.m. update on Tropical Storm Elsa, which is staying west
Tropical Storm Elsa is feeling for a softness in the atmosphere, an escape hatch that will allow the gusty brigand to scoot north to Florida.
As of 5 p.m. Sunday, the fifth tropical cyclone of the 2021 hurricane season continued to spin forceful 60-mph sustained winds but had slowed its breakneck forward speed to 14 mph as it blustered into Cuba.
The squally fringes of Elsa’s 125-mile reach of tropical-storm-force winds could begin harassing Miami late Monday into early Tuesday. That’s why officials were ina rush to demolish the remaining part of the Champlain tower.
Elsa’s future will be determined in part by the island’s terrain and whether the storm attempts a trek over the Sierra Maestra mountains where Pico Real del Turquino rises to more than 6,400 feet or the western mountain range of Guaniguanico.
With that uncertainty, storm concerns on the west coast of the Sunshine State were upgraded Sunday with a tropical storm watch escalated to a warning for the Florida Keys from Craig Key west to the Dry Tortugas.
A tropical storm watch was issued for Craig Key east to Ocean Reef, including Florida Bay.
A lengthy stretch of southwest Florida from Flamingo north to the Anclotte River, including Tampa Bay, were also put under a tropical storm watch. A storm surge watch was issued north to the Suwanee River.
“There is potential for sustained tropical-storm-force winds in excess of 39 mph primarily in southwest Florida,” said Miami-based National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Kelly. “But elsewhere, concerns are for frequent 39-mph gusts.”
The official hurricane center forecast puts Elsa near Key West’s heralded Duval Street early Tuesday with 60 mph winds and 70 mph gusts, but conditions are expected to begin deteriorating Monday.
— Kim Miller, The Palm Beach Post
Condo tower 5 miles from Champlain south ordered evacuated
City officials in North Miami Beach, just northwest of Surfside, called for an emergency meeting Saturday after ordering the evacuation of a condominium tower just five miles from last week’s building collapse.
Authorities said Friday that the closing of the 156-unit Crestview Towers stems from an audit prompted by the Champlain Towers South disaster.
“In an abundance of caution, the City ordered the building closed immediately and the residents evacuated for their protection, while a full structural assessment is conducted and next steps are determined,” North Miami Beach City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III said. “Nothing is more important than the safety and lives of our residents, and we will not rest until we ensure this building is 100% safe.”
No re-inspection rules for older condos, Florida Network finds
According to a review by the USA Today Network-Florida, the process that requires high-rise buildings that are 40 years or older to be inspected for safety — a review that was due this year for Champlain Towers South in Surfside — is not required in any of Florida’s 67 counties except for Broward and Miami-Dade.
But change is already being discussed in the wake of the Surfside tragedy.
In the past week, Palm Beach County officials and the local League of Cities met with building officials for the 39 municipalities to “discuss and develop a plan to address recertification of these types of structures as soon as possible,” wrote County Administrator Verdenia Baker in an email to commissioners.
FOR SUBSCRIBERS:No city outside of Broward or Miami-Dade requires 40-year building safety check. That could change
For local governments in the rest of Florida’s 65 counties, high-rise inspections really happen only before the building is ready to be occupied, when permitted work is done or when dangerous conditions are brought to the local governments’ attention. These records are often retained by the municipality.
Otherwise, routine inspections of high-rise properties are up to the building owner or manager.
— Hannah Morse, The Palm Beach Post, and USA Today Florida Network reporters.
60 years of condo construction, Florida has no rules, Florida Network finds
A USA Today Network-Florida review of Florida statutes governing the condo industry found the state has had no oversight of the condition of aging condominium buildings in nearly 60 years of condo construction, except for a brief window that lasted barely two years.
No post-construction inspection requirements. No enforcement measures to repair potentially life-threatening structural damage. No requirement to maintain a contingency fund for emergency repairs.
More:‘It takes a tragedy’: Florida’s hands-off approach to condo regulations tested after Surfside
That’s because the Florida Legislature is reluctant to pass laws that slow down condominium construction and sales, said Eric Glazer, a Hallandale lawyer with 30 years of condo law experience.
— Jeffrey Schweers, Capital Bureau, Tallahassee Democrat
USA Today Network-Florida reporters Dave Berman of Florida Today; TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat; Omar Rodriguez Ortiz, Jake Allen and Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News; Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News; Nathaniel Cobb of the Panama City News Herald; Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press; and Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union contributed to this story.