Palm Beach Residents Stuck on the Outside in Irma Aftermath
(Bloomberg) -- Residents of tony Palm Beach can’t get back to their homes after evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, with police preventing cars from crossing the bridge to the island, home to President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and the exclusive Breakers hotel.
With trees down and power out, including at the Breakers, police closed off the main bridge to Palm Beach Monday to everyone but emergency crews. About 20 to 30 cars lined the bridge, with island residents waiting their turn to convince police officials that they need to get in.
The scene at one of the state’s most exclusive destinations shows how the recovery from the storm will take time, even though the damage wasn’t as bad as initially feared. Guests aren’t staying at the Breakers right now, and Florida utility workers haven’t yet started working on the island, said Kevin Morine Jr., an officer with the Palm Beach Police Department.
Tony Dowell, 81, a retired stockbroker, persuaded a police captain to let him go home to get his blood pressure medication. But Tina Johnson, a 40-year-old recent business school graduate, failed to make it past the roadblock to pick up her friend, who cleans houses and is now stuck on the island. Not even Wells Fargo Co. workers were able to get in to assess damage at a bank branch.
One woman zoomed away from the island in her car, waving off the warning from police that she wouldn’t be able to return. The woman told officers the weather was intolerably hot and she needed to escape. She drove away too quickly to be asked to identify herself.
Morine said he’s hopeful residents will be able to return Tuesday. The town has about 10,000 year-round residents, though the population swells in the winter, the high tourist season.
“I feel terrible I can’t get into my house,” said Sharon Talbot, a 69-year-old retired attorney who passed the time at Grease Burger Bar in West Palm Beach while waiting to get back to her two-story home on the island. She said she has lovebirds in a cage in her house that she needs to care for.
Her brother Peter Pettie, a 67-year-old retired bond trader, said he agrees that police need to restrict traffic to Palm Beach to prevent looters and to protect Trump’s residence. The island was closed after hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, he said. It’s too hard for officials to screen island residents from others who might be up to no good, Pettie said.
“I wouldn’t want anyone on my island saying, ‘We want to check the beach,’ but they want to check your homes,” said Pettie, who’s putting up his sister in his West Palm Beach residence in the meantime.