Experts say tropical weather would impact, not stop effort in Surfside building collapse

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Workers search the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Surfside, Fla. Many people were still unaccounted for after Thursday’s fatal collapse. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescuers are keeping a close eye on the tropics as they continue their search for loved ones in the rubble of the Champlain Towers condo complex in Surfside.

It was a big topic during the Wednesday night news conference when officials provided updates.

While it’s still uncertain if Florida will see impacts, rescue operations could be hampered if Surfside gets heavy rain and wind.

We spoke with an engineer who says heavy rain could cause the massive piles of concrete dust to consolidate and make it harder to dig through all the levels.

Firefighters say severe weather would cause them to temporarily suspend their efforts.

Searching through the rubble for those still unaccounted for and finding what caused the collapse are not quick processes.

“It shouldn’t take very long to remove a very large pile of debris,” said engineer Bob Rude, the president of Bob Rude Structures Inc. “However, in this case, with human remains or with people trapped, I should say that adds another entire dimension.”

Rude says it will only become more challenging as the tropics heat up.

“The concrete debris is somewhat loose, but when water gets into that entire system of, or into that entire pile, it can cause a consolidation of the materials that are within that pile,” Rude explained.

Rude says heavy rain will slow down the already painstaking operation.

“It won’t necessarily reconstitute itself into concrete, but it will become a dense paste of material that becomes more difficult to remove,” Rude said.

During their evening news conference, emergency operations leaders also said they are keeping an eye on the tropics.

Fire Chief Gene Rogers of South Trail Fire & Rescue District says he’s confident crews will be ready.

“I can’t speak for Surfside specifically, but I can tell you that those rescuers over there are going to do exactly what we are going to do here,” Rogers said. “They’re going to keep that operation going until such time as that sustained wind would shut that operation down, and it would only be temporary.”

Rude says the job will get done, but there will be hurdles.

“It won’t stop the process of investigation or debris removal or search, but it could certainly impact it and hamper that process,” Rude said.

Rogers said emergency operations centers across the state have their own guidelines for severe weather and when first responders, such as search and rescue teams, can respond.

The director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management said if severe weather hits, new search crews would be brought in to rotate out some of the crews who have been at the site for days.

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