Energy Secretary implies climate change could've caused condo collapse

Biden’s Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm suggests climate change could have caused the Miami condo collapse and researchers say the sea level in the area has risen EIGHT INCHES in 40 years

  • Granholm was asked by CNN on Tuesday if climate change could have played a role in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside
  • ‘Obviously, we don’t know fully, but we do know that the seas are rising,’ Granholm replied
  • She continued: ‘We know that we’re losing inches and inches of beaches, not just in Florida but all around’
  • She added that ‘we’ll have to wait to see what the analysis is for this building’ but that climate change means changes to infrastructure will be needed
  • Her comments come as Brian McNoldy, a climate researcher at the University of Miami, revealed Surfside’s sea level has risen up to eight inches in 40 years
  • McNoldy said higher sea level increases the frequency of high-tide floods near Miami which can cause devastating damage to buildings
  • Scientists had warned that the 12-story Miami condo building was sinking and in a potentially dangerous condition one year before it collapsed Thursday
  • A 2020 study found the Champlain Towers South complex was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s because it sits on reclaimed wetlands
  • Miami Dade County official are inspecting 501 buildings – every one in their jurisdiction that is 40 years or older- to make sure none are compromised 

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has suggested that climate change could have caused the deadly condo collapse in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood, where researchers say the sea level has risen up to eight inches over the past 40 years.

Granholm was asked by CNN on Tuesday if climate change could have played a part in the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building, which suddenly crumbled around 1.30am last Thursday.

‘Obviously, we don’t know fully, but we do know that the seas are rising,’ Granholm replied. 

‘We know that we’re losing inches and inches of beaches, not just in Florida but all around. Michigan, where I’m from, we’ve seen the loss of beaches because the waters are rising, so this is a phenomenon that will continue.’

Her comments came as Brian McNoldy, a climate and weather researcher at the University of Miami, revealed to CNN that the sea level in Surfside has risen about seven to eight inches in four decades – primarily from human-caused climate change. 

McNoldy told the outlet that higher sea levels increase the frequency of high-tide floods in the Miami area which can cause devastating damage to buildings as salt water destroys infrastructure.

‘I don’t think I need to be an engineer to conclude this, but any time things are submerged in saltwater, it becomes harsh on them — it doesn’t matter what that material is,’ McNoldy said.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday suggested that climate change could have caused the deadly condo collapse in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood, where researchers say the sea level has risen up to eight inches over the past 40 years

Rescue crews are seen searching the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South condo building after it suddenly crumbled around 1.30am last Thursday

In her interview, Granholm used the collapse to promote President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure package. 

‘We’ll have to wait to see what the analysis is for this building, but the issue about resiliency and making sure we adapt to this changing climate, that’s going to mean levees need to be built, sea walls need to be built, infrastructure needs to be built,’ Granholm said.

‘There’s so much investment that we need to do protect ourselves from climate change but also to address it and mitigate it and hopefully these infrastructure bills, when taken together, will make a huge step and allow America to lead again.’

McNoldy was careful not to specifically blame the condo collapse on climate change but stressed that the sea level rise in south Florida has happened ‘across the board’ and which means all the structures along the coastline could be affected.

‘We do know that in the past 25 years, sea level has risen almost six inches [in the Miami area],’ McNoldy told CNN. 

‘If we go back 40 years, we’ve probably seen about seven to eight inches of sea level rise and what that does, some low-lying places that maybe didn’t used to flood are starting to now, and places that maybe always did have some issues during exceptionally high tides have even worse issues now.’

Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said on Tuesday that was now contacting every building in the county that is 40 years or older

Scientists had warned that the 12-story Miami condo building was sinking and in a potentially dangerous condition one year before it collapsed Thursday.

A 2020 study from Florida International University found the Champlain Towers South sea-view condo development was sinking at a rate of about two millimeters a year in the 1990s because it sits on reclaimed wetlands.

The oceanfront building was also due to have its safety recertified for the first time in 40 years this year which included the need for ‘extensive repairs for rusted steel and damaged concrete’ on parts of the structure.

Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, told USA Today he knew instantly which building had collapsed when he heard news reports because he had studied the building for the report published last year.

‘I looked at it this morning and said “Oh my god.” We did detect that,’ he said.

Wdowinski said he found that Champlain Towers South was sinking at a rate of around two millimeters a year in the 1990s due to its position on wetlands but that rate could have slowed down or sped up since then.

Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University, told USA Today that he knew instantly which building had collapsed when he heard news reports because he had studied the building for the report published last year

Shimon Wdowinski.mp4 from FIUCASE on Vimeo.

However, the land’s slow sinking alone would not have caused the building to collapse, he said.

‘It was a byproduct of analyzing the data. We saw this building had some kind of unusual movement,’ Wdowinski told USA Today.

The paper was published in April 2020 in the academic journal Ocean and Coastal Management and was part of a wider look at how buildings in Miami were sinking generally with rising sea levels caused by climate change.

‘In some locations, as in the eastern part of the city, the detected subsidence [sinking] is of a 12-story high condominium building,’ the paper ominously warns.

It’s not immediately clear if any officials took note of the paper when it comes to shoring up any dangerous conditions in the area.

In a video posted by FIU, Wdowinski said hundreds of buildings can be sinking bit-by-bit – and hundreds of buildings can have cracks, not just in Miami.


These photos show the damage inside the Maison Grande Condominium building, a complex that was built in 1971 – ten years before Champlain Towers South – that is two miles away. Residents shared the photos on Tuesday in fear that their homes may crumble around them too. The condo association’s president insisted to DailyMail.com the building was safe and up to code


These photos were taken by worried residents inside the condo building where residents say they are scared. 


Other photos taken inside the parking garage show more concrete damage. The condo association president said she is waiting for a permit from the city to do the work but that they are delayed. In the meantime, she has insisted there is no safety concern  


Photos taken on Tuesday in the pool equipment room at Champlain Towers South, which is located in the basement parking garage, show extensive concrete spalling and corroded rebar. A contractor took these photos and noticed that in the actual parking garage, there were puddles of water which were in the direct spot beneath the leaking pool deck

The contractor photographed the pool deck which looked normal above ground but according to a 2018 report, was causing water to form on the lower level because it was leaking

Miami Dade County official are inspecting 501 buildings – every one in their jurisdiction that is 40 years or older- to make sure none are compromised like Champlain Towers South was before it collapsed last week, killing at least 11 people. 

There is currently no state law in Florida that requires high rise buildings to be inspected regularly. 

The Miami Dade county inspector last night contacted one building, in northeast Miami Dade, where they found four balconies they said were dangerous. 

Of the 501 that the Mayor’s office has identified which need to be visited, 131 have been contacted.   

COST AND TIMELINE OF CHAMPLAIN TOWERS REPAIRS 

2018 cost: $12million 

That is the initial cost given by Frank Morabito, who was hired to conduct a review for the building’s recertification process. 

Morabito was rehired in 2019 and he conducted a more extensive review. 

A committee was then formed to decide who was going to do the work 

2021 cost: $16million 

This was how much the work had increased by because the damage had become worse. 

This figure also reflects the engineer’s fee for doing it. 

Cash on hand: $707,000 

Cash needed: $15.5million 

What each owner owed: 

$80,000-$336,000 depending on apartment size 

Owners were given until July 1 to decide how to pay. The work bids were due to end on June 1 but bids were still being taken for the concrete project 

How to pay

Lump sum or in monthly installments of $500 or more for 15 years 

Units in building: 136

At the Champlain Tower South building, a contractor had photographed corroding rebar and cracked concrete in the parking garage of the complex last Tuesday, just 36 hours before the building collapsed, killing at least 11 people and just two months after the building’s residents were told the damage was ‘accelerating’.

The contractor, who has not been named, had been asked to survey the damage in the pool equipment room, which was in the southside of the underground parking garage, beneath the pool deck. He was putting together a bid to redo the pool and the pool equipment room but was struck by the damage, which he photographed.

He told The Miami Herald afterwards: ‘There was standing water all over the parking garage…I thought to myself, that’s not normal.’

The damage had been identified in a 2018 report by engineer Frank Morabito. He found that there was a ‘major error’ in the building’s construction which meant the pool was leaking onto the concrete slabs below.

In the report, he warned that the ‘main issue’ was the pool deck and entrance drive area, where condo residents would enjoy the Miami sunshine by the pool.

Morabito wrote that the waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive was failing’ and ‘beyond its useful life and therefore must all be completely removed and replaced.’

The report warned that the failed waterproofing was ‘causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas.’

‘Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially,’ it read.

Morabito wrote that there had been a ‘major error’ in the original design of that area because the waterproofing was laid on a concrete slab that was flat, rather than sloped to allow water to run off.=

The engineering firm released a statement Saturday confirming that it completed the report in 2018 that ‘detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete’ of the building and gave a cost estimate to make the fixes.

In April, the condo board – which had been deliberating the repairs for two years, trying to come up with the money for them and organizing a committee to oversee them – sent a letter to residents telling them the damage was ‘significantly worse’ and ‘accelerating’.

‘Please note that the original scope of work in the 2018 report has expanded. The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated. When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface.

‘The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated. Indeed the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection,’ board president Jean Wodnicki said.

Search and Rescue teams look for possible survivors and to recover remains in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on Tuesday

More than 150 people are still reported missing days after the building collapse 

The surveillance video, obtained by WSVN, shows portions of the 12-story Miami Beach apartment building crumbling and sending a huge cloud of debris into the air when it collapsed in the middle of the night

In that letter, she said they were still trying to finalize a loan from Valley bank to pay for the repairs (they tried to get a loan first from Banco Popular but the deal fell through) and that the total cost was more than $16million and the board had just $707,000 in cash reserves, leaving them with a bill for around $15million.

The owners of the building’s 136 units would be responsible for repaying it and each was on the hook for a different amount depending on how big their unit was.

The condo board hired the company also in 2020, the company said in its statement, to complete a plan for its 40-year certification.

‘We are deeply troubled by this building collapse and are working closely with the investigating authorities to understand why the structure failed,’ the statement said. ‘As we do so, we also continue to pray for all those impacted by this tragic event.’

The report recommended a list of repairs to the area including repairs to the concrete structure, ‘installing a new waterproofing membrane, protection board and drain panels on the new sloped surface’ among other changes.     

THE MIAMI CONDO COLLAPSE VICTIMS IDENTIFIED SO FAR

54-year-old Stacie Fang

STACIE DAWN FANG

Stacie Dawn Fang, 54, was with her son Jonah Handler, a teenager, when the building collapsed. They lived on the tenth floor. The boy’s small hand waved through the wreckage as a man out walking his dog hurried to the site, climbed through a pile of glass and rebar and promised to get help right away.

Rescuers helped the boy out from under a pile of cement and carried him away on a stretcher to a hospital.

‘There are no words to describe the tragic loss of our beloved Stacie,’ members of her family said in a statement. ‘Many heartfelt words of encouragement and love have served as a much needed source of strength during this devastating time.’

Asked about the boy’s condition, a family friend, Lisa Mozloom told the AP ‘He will be fine. He’s a miracle.’

MANUEL LAFONT

Manuel LaFont, 54

Manuel LaFont, 54, was a proud father, a baseball fan and a business consultant who lived on the building’s eighth floor. 

He had a 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter with his ex-wife Adriana LaFont, the Miami Herald reported.

Adriana asked her friends on Facebook to pray the rosary for Manny before his body was found. ‘So many memories inside the walls that are no more today, forever engraved experiences in the heart,’ she wrote.

LaFont, a Houston native, coached his son’s baseball team, the Astros, at North Shore Park, just a mile away from the Champlain. He was a parishioner at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. The parish’s school parents gathered Saturday afternoon to pray for LaFont and his neighbors who were still missing.

An alumnus of Sharpstown High School in Houston, LaFont had worked across Latin America and the Caribbean for a manufacturing firm, leading a division focusing on roadway safety that built crash cushions and moveable barriers, the Herald reported.

‘I got into this industry specifically because I don’t want to sell widgets. I want to help people. I want to do something good in this world,’ he said at an industry conference in 2016. ‘When I die, I want to say that my life meant something.’

ANTONIO AND GLADYS LOZANO

Antonio and Gladys Lozano

Antonio and Gladys Lozano lived on the ninth floor. The two had known each other over 60 years and would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on July 21.

Their sons told WPLG-TV that the couple had joked neither wanted to die before the other, because neither wanted to live without the other. Their one solace, the brothers said, was that they were together when they died.

Authorities confirmed on Saturday that Antonio, 83, and Gladys, 79, were among the dead.

Sergio Lozano said he had dinner with his parents hours before the collapse. He lived in one of the towers of the complex and could see his parents’ apartment across the way from his. That night, he said the heard a loud noise they thought could be a storm.

‘The building is not there,’ he said he told his wife. ‘My parents’ apartment is not there. It’s gone.’

ANA ORTIZ, HER HUSBAND FRANK AND HER SON LUIZ 

Ana Ortiz, left, and her son Luis Bermudez and Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina (right) 

Luis Bermudez, of San Juan, Puerto Rico, had battled with muscular dystrophy for years and used a wheelchair. The 26-year-old man lived with his mother Ana Ortiz on the seventh floor of the Champlain Towers South.  

His father, also named Luis Bermudez, texted the AP saying ‘my son is a hero.’ He also wrote on Facebook that he could not believe he’s gone.

‘Now rest in peace and without any obstacles in heaven,’ he wrote. ‘I will see you soon my Luiyo.’

Ortiz, 46, had just gotten married with Frankie Kleiman. Alex Garcia, the couple’s close friend, told The Miami Herald he had set them up on a blind date. Kleiman lived with his wife and stepson on the same floor as his brother Jay Kleiman, who was in town for a funeral, and their mother Nancy Kress Levin. The Kleimans and their mother are still missing.

50-year-old Frank Kleiman, left, was found on Monday. He was Ana’s husband

Ortiz was described as a woman who was committed to giving her son the best possible life.

‘She´s a rock star. And gorgeous,” Garcia told the Herald. “And on top of that a super mom.

FRANK KLEIMAN 

Kleiman, 50, was the husband of Ana Ortiz, whose body was found alongside that of her disabled son, Luiz, over the weekend. 

LEON AND CHRISTINA OLIWKOWICZ

Leon Oliwkowicz and his wife Christina were also identified as victims of the tower collapse on Sunday evening 

The couple lived on the 8th floor of the condo tower for several years, according to Venezuelan journalist Shirley Varnagy, a close friend of their family.

They were among six Venezuelan natives caught in the building’s collapse. Still missing Monday were Moisés Rodán, 28; Andrés Levine, 27; Luis Sadovnik, 28, and his wife, Nicole Langesfeld, Varnagy said.

Varnagy said the Oliwkowicz’s daughter had been outside the building waiting for some information about their fate. Her husband answered their phone and asked to be left alone.

The couple’s daughter, Mrs. Leah Fouhal, works as a secretary at a Jewish school in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the couple donated a Torah in 2019 in a procession that included a vintage fire truck, music and a giant velvet and gold crown, according to COLlive.com, an Orthodox Jewish news outlet that covers Chabad-Lubavitch communities around the world.

Meanwhile, the parents of Rodán, Levine and Sadovnik live in Venezuela and traveled to the U.S. Friday. ‘Some did not have a visa, others had an expired passport, but with diplomatic collaboration they were able to arrive,’ Varnagy said. 

MARCOS JOSEPH GUARA & MICHAEL DAVID ALTMAN


The body of 52-year-old Marcus Joseph Guara was recovered on Saturday

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