With Irma coming, Miami has a crane problem

With Hurricane Irma currently setting records for size, wind speeds and intensity, last minute preparations are taking place across the south. Unfortunately, the latest projections have Irma making landfall at the tip of Florida and potentially barreling straight through Miami. That would be bad news no matter when it happened, but there’s a complicating factor in play here which residents are being warned about.


The city has been undergoing a construction boom for several years now with multiple, large-scale projects going up at once. This has led to a situation where the skyline is defined not only by tall buildings, but by dozens of massive construction cranes, many of which are erected up on the structures themselves. The city is alerting residents to the fact that there are as many as 25 of these giants machines looming over them right now and, if you haven’t already guessed, they are not rated to withstand anywhere near 180 mph winds. (Route Fifty)

The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, Hurricane Irma, could wreak havoc on Florida this weekend, depending on its still-uncertain path. While it will create bigger problems to worry about if it does, the booming city of Miami is already warning residents about the potential danger posed by objects on its skyline that are hard to miss: towering construction cranes.

As the city noted in a tweet yesterday, the 20 to 25 tower cranes are not designed to withstand the winds of a Category 5 hurricane:

Hurricane Irma has produced winds of 185 mph, with gusts exceeding 200 mph.

“The crane’s arm has to remain loose; it is not tied down,” the city noted. “The arm’s counterbalance is very heavy and poses a potential danger if the crane collapses.”

In case you were wondering, putting these cranes up is a major, time consuming effort and doing the reverse is just as bad. There’s simply no time to get all those beasts taken down before the storm arrives. If the predicted track from the National Weather Service solidifies by tonight and Miami really is going to be ground zero, we can hope that the place will be empty by the time Irma arrives so nobody will have to worry about them. But it could seriously increase the damage and complicate the clean-up efforts.


If you weren’t sure what sort of damage they can cause, think back to the single construction crane which came down in New York City’s Tribeca district in early 2016. One person was killed, three others were injured and the entire block was shut down for nearly a week. And that was only one crane which came down in winds that were less than 30 mph. A witness in a nearby building told the New York Post that it, “felt like an earthquake.”

Here’s a short video of the destruction after the dust settled.

As I said, hopefully everyone will be out of there before Irma arrives (assuming they have a plan to get nearly half a million people out of there in a couple of days time) but if not, at least keep everyone away from these construction sites. It could become very ugly, very quickly.

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David Strom 6:00 PM | February 27, 2024