Miami-Dade Mayor Speaks on Irma Shelter Snafu

Long lines snaked the entrance of several shelters in Miami-Dade Friday as people sought a safer place to ride out Hurricane Irma. As of Friday evening, 44 shelters opened, but at least seven of those quickly filled to capacity.

Frustration and confusion mounted for evacuees who arrived at shelters with no vacancy. Many families had to go to other shelters, some of which were not yet opened. However, a number of those shelters were listed as open on the county’s website. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said a glitch on the website caused the confusion. The mayor addressed the issue during a press conference Friday night.

“Somehow, a list got out and people were showing up at shelters when we weren’t ready to do so,” Gimenez explained.

Evacuees who arrived at full shelters were transported by bus to vacant shelters in the county. The mayor said despite some of the shelters quickly filling up, the county could accommodate many more evacuees.

“We have the capacity to house 100,000 people and we’re at 23,000,” said Mayor Gimenez.

Some evacuees told NBC 6 the shelters were disorganized. Gimenez said due to high demand, some of the shelters were staffed with personnel filling in for National Guardsmen, who were set to arrive late Friday. The mayor emphasized the only shelters that experienced a few hiccups were the ones staffed with fill-in volunteers.

There was a lack of communication between the shelters which contributed to the confusion, the mayor said. He admitted that it was a learning experience.

“We now have a process in place, where that’s not gonna happen again,” explained Gimenez.

The mayor also apologized to evacuees who were inconvenienced during the process.

The shelters are staffed by school officials, school employees, county volunteers, the Red Cross and the National Guard.

For a list of open and vacant shelters in South Florida, click here.