Verdenia Baker, the County Administrator for Palm Beach County, issued an illegal curfew order on Friday morning. The curfew is set to take effect at 3 pm today (Saturday). Sheriff Bradshaw made an unclear statement about the order saying that the curfew applies to anyone who is not out for “legitimate purposes” without explaining what might be legitimate. County prosecutor Dave Aronberg indicated that people will be arrested for violating the curfew.
Under state law the county has no authority to issue such a curfew. Section 252.36 of the Florida Statutes, specifically subsection 5, authorizes the Governor (not the county) to take a variety of actions in an emergency. This includes ordering evacuations and in rather vague terms: “Take measures concerning the conduct of civilians, the movement and cessation of movement of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.” It does also authorize the Governor to delegate emergency responsibilities to local officials.
The Governor’s Executive Order does not indicate any curfews and does not delegate curfew authority to local officials.
One of the biggest problems with this curfew order is that many people may be unaware of the curfew and in particular they likely will not know what constitutes a “legitimate purpose” – the term used by the Sheriff whose deputies will enforce this curfew in West Boca and other unincorporated areas of the county.
The curfew order itself does define what purposes are allowed:
Put simply, we can travel for medical care, work and/or school, and we can facilitate the transport or distribution of essentials. Of course if a deputy doesn’t believe or accept your reason, or is unaware of the details of the order, you might be arrested even if you’re within these exceptions.
Some residents are planning to travel from less secure locations to more secure locations (i.e. from unshuttered homes to shuttered homes), or to pick up vulnerable people and bring them to safer locations. These are not protected under Ms. Baker’s order. In other words, if you drive to Century Village to help a distressed elderly person you are violating the curfew and subject to arrest. Journalism is also not on the list of permitted purposes, a particular concern for us as we are (or were) planning to go out and document the effects of Irma on our community.
Another concern is residents of other counties. Deerfield News questioned what would happen to Broward residents who travel into Boca. They would be even less likely to know about the curfew and its details.
West Boca News recommends that residents stay off the roads after 3 pm today. While the latest hurricane forecasts indicate we are unlikely to face hurricane force winds, anyone outside after 3 pm faces the risk of unlawful arrest by PBSO deputies and prosecution by State Attorney Dave Aronberg. If you’re thinking of suing, they will probably be immune from civil suit.
We did reach out to county commissioners Mary Lou Berger and Steven Abrams, who purportedly represent West Boca, for clarification. Neither responded.
We posted a few reader photos of flooding on Facebook last night. Other readers responded with more, and with stories. The flooding was so bad it got inside Town Center Mall:
That first photo is from our own kid getting in on the action. We also received mall photos from readers. This one is also from inside:
Parking areas were also flooded.
Robyn Becker-Bracero told us:
It was inside the mall. The water was pouring in through the employee/security entrance next to Macy’s and the Apple Store. It started coming in quick. Several people were video taping. It was even worse outside under the covered lot at Macy’s exit.
We saw flooding ourselves in Town Center Circle (east side of Military south of Glades) with water up to several inches deep at its worst. Leaving that plaza we were about to turn onto NW 19th but the water looked very deep so we converted that left into a U-turn and headed south on Palmetto Park Road. There was significant flooding on Palmetto, especially on the westbound side in the right lanes both near the Kabbalah Center (just west of Turnpike) and at the intersection with Lyons Road.
Readers also reported significant flooding along SW 18th west of Powerline and near Boca Rio.
Lindsay Roffman-Schwimmer reported:
My SUV was stuck in boca pointe last night. Hundreds of cars were just sitting ducks.. some of them were floating by me. I couldn’t tell what was the lake and what was the road. I pulled into a sub development and waited in a guest spot that was raised on higher ground. My boyfriend had to come in his truck and rescue me.
Many smaller luxury cars were submerged in water up to their windows. It was literally a mini natural disaster area.. Also including SW 18th street areas. I hope everyone is safe now.
In the same area Melisa Mely said:
I have never seen more water on the 18th Street. Some cars actually got stuck. I’m glad I made it home.
C’est catastrophique, le pire c’est que contre les inondations on ne peut pas faire grand chose
(Translation) It is catastrophic, the worst part is that against the floods we can’t do much
And there were just places where traffic went deep:
Reader estimates of total rainfall varied from 1.5 to over 5 inches. We estimate 4-5 inches fell in Boca Falls from our own somewhat reliable method (rise in the level of our pool). For arguably more reliable numbers, we have this from the National Weather Service:
There was significant coverage of the flooding in other media. Our favorite was WPTV reporting that Boca Raton City Hall experienced flooding on both the 1st and 2nd floors. Second floor?
Update: Bonus photo from reader Samir. This one is in East Boca on Federal Highway.
One other detail that was mildly amusing, where the National Weather Service posted a tornado warning recommending people go to their basements, which is not terribly practical in South Florida.
Tornado Warning issued March 24 at 6:49PM EDT until March 24 at 7:15PM EDT by NWS Miami THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED A * TORNADO WARNING FOR… NORTHEASTERN BROWARD COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN FLORIDA… SOUTHEASTERN PALM BEACH COUNTY IN SOUTHEASTERN FLORIDA… * UNTIL 715 PM EDT * AT 649 PM EDT…A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO WAS LOCATED OVER COCONUT CREEK…OR OVER MARGATE…MOVING EAST AT 15 MPH. HAZARD…TORNADO. SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED ROTATION. IMPACT…FLYING DEBRIS WILL BE DANGEROUS TO THOSE CAUGHT WITHOUT SHELTER. MOBILE HOMES WILL BE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. DAMAGE TO ROOFS…WINDOWS…AND VEHICLES WILL OCCUR. TREE DAMAGE IS LIKELY. * LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE… CORAL SPRINGS…POMPANO BEACH…BOCA RATON…DEERFIELD BEACH AND TAMARAC. TORNADO…RADAR INDICATED HAIL…0.00IN TAKE COVER NOW! MOVE TO A BASEMENT OR AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF YOU ARE OUTDOORS…IN A MOBILE HOME…OR IN A VEHICLE…MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.
Readers sent us some great photos and video of this evening’s lightning storm. First, here’s a reader video of the blimp we actually saw ourselves.
Yes it’s every building we are sweating and people are calling home because of heat exhaustion my name is Alexia Rodgers I am in grade 12 this problem had been going on for the past year and I’m ready to take a stand on this issue. The school doesn’t act on it. It’s about 89 in the buildings.
Yes please quote me and I have others named Gabby Dowzall and Ally Berstein whose phone switched to the temperature sign and died because of the extreme heat. It is very hard for us because we have to stay in dress code and we can’t take our sweaters off because of our tank tops.
My daughter called me from Olympic Heights saying the AC is out … I guess its a good thing she has senior privileged, but the others are sweating … She has called me many times saying the AC is out. … My daughter had classes in the 6000, 8000, 1000 buildings and ALL rooms were HOT.
We tried to call the school and were unable to get through. We then called and e-mailed the school district’s media office. So far we have not had any response.
This follows on previous complaints about school buses being very late and leaving kids out in the heat at the bus pickup line.
Update – A reader sent us a video of the tornado:
Several readers sent us photos of yesterday’s tornado in West Boca. We’ve assembled the best of them here. The picture at top is taken from Cain Boulevard (runs west of 441 from Boca Chase down to Glades).
It is our normal practice to keep readers anonymous when they submit tips or photos to us, unless they request credit or to be identified. None of them asked so for now they’re anonymous.
Here’s a shot from Mission Bay:
From South County Regional Park:
The image quality isn’t great, but this one was from near West Boca High looking over the Everglades:
The next two had no location identified:
From Saturnia Isles:
And here’s our favorite. We like it because the sign seems odd in the context of the tornado:
A couple readers sent us videos but we weren’t able to get them to work. Hopefully they’ll resend them to email@example.com.