A day late and . . . .
We have all heard the saying. It would not be one of my blogs without a rock and roll or movie reference, so perhaps Pat Benatar said it better still back in 1982 in Little too Late:
It's a little too little, it's a little too late
I'm a little too hurt and there's nothin' left that I've gotta say
You can cry to me baby but there's only so much I can take
Oh, it's a little too little it's a little too late
Well, this post is a day late. I publish on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday each week. It is not safe to set your calendar based on my postings, but I am fairly consistent. But not yesterday. In fact, it did not occur to me that yesterday was Thursday until I awoke today and realized with it being Friday there are only two more work days this week. Then we can start again.
On Sunday, September 10, 2017 and Monday, September 11, Irma made landfall in Florida. The Governor had closed all of our OJCC offices for Friday, September 8 and Monday, September 11. I spent the weekend anxiously watching the storm, worrying about our people and property in its path, posting, Tweeting, and hoping for the best.
The weather channel did not help this, providing their real-time evidence of storm intensity and varying predictions. Certainly, they are doing their job and doing it well. But somehow, I need to figure out how to turn that off once in a while and let my blood pressure stabilize.
Throughout the weekend and Monday, the electricity remained on in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee, and Miami. Yes, Miami. I was encouraged to find Miami with electricity on Monday. We are fortunate that our offices are located in solid buildings, but I harbored grave concerns about the southernmost offices and the path of Irma.
Yesterday, September 21, 2017 I lost track of posting a blog because I thought it would be a big day for the OJCC. I thought that almost two weeks after closing for Irma, the last two closed offices would reopen. And in the immortal words of comedian Ron White, "I was wrong." Ft. Lauderdale and Miami remained closed Thursday, September 22, 2017.
I have heard from many of you, and the inquiries just keep coming. I hear you, your concern about your clients, the uncertainty about due process, the what ifs of filing deadlines, discovery, and more. I hear you. And, we are adjusting. But, I want you to know what we have been working on, and the progress that we have made.
I was testing for power on September 11, 2017 and September 12. Much of that was by contacting our offices by telephone and videoteleconference. If the phones answered, the phone system was on, and I was exuberant. I was very pleased to find power on those days in Gainesville, Lakeland, Miami, Orlando, Panama City, Pensacola, Port St. Lucie, Saratsota, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, and Tampa. That is 11 of 17 offices with power the day after landfall. Encouraging news indeed! But news of surge and widespread flooding in the city of Jacksonville dampened the spirits some that day.
The offices without power as of Tuesday, September 12 were Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, and West Palm Beach. Six of seventeen offices that would remain closed. Frankly, after the news and weather reports through the weekend, I thought we were pretty lucky. Irma was a big storm, a powerful storm, and its effects would be expected to be widespread. We got a physical inspection report on Tuesday; Jacksonville had broken windows and a tree down. No flood damage, office essentially intact. Spirits rose again. This was great news.
On Wednesday, September 13, 2017 the process resumed. Calls to each district, hopes for the phone to be answered. Ft. Lauderdale answered! Two days post landfall, power was restored in Ft. Lauderdale! My excitement that two South Florida facilities, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale were powered and ready was so reassuring. I was receiving reports of physical inspection around the state. No serious damage reports. The news seemed too good to be true (keep reading, as Ron White would say "I was wrong").
On Thursday, September 14, 2017, Daytona answered. Ft. Lauderdale reported in, everything was inspected and ready to open the office; streets were passable, but still many traffic signals out. Commutes would be slow, but we could reopen Ft. Lauderdale Friday. On Thursday, we got a physical report from Ft. Myers (close to Irma's landfall) and there was no physical damage. No electricity yet, but no physical damage. Another uplifting report.
On Friday, September 15, 2017, Ft. Lauderdale's attempt to reopen suffered a setback. While some lights remained operable, the electricity was not sufficient to power the air conditioning or the computers. We would have to close. The power company had been contacted. Full power was expected to be restored by midnight Friday. We would have to postpone opening Ft. Lauderdale until Monday, September 18, que sera sera. By the end of that first week, all offices were reopen except Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, and Miami. Thirteen of seventeen offices back online!
Miami!?!? But, Miami District never lost power. Why was Miami still closed four days post-Irma? The landlord was asking us questions about our operations in Miami. We were told damage was being assessed, but the building remained "closed." News was coming "soon." We had high hopes for Monday, September 18, 2017. Late Friday, we learned that the air conditioning in Miami had suffered a catastrophic failure. The landlord had procured a portable chiller, from Jacksonville, and this tractor trailer-mounted rig was in route from Jacksonville. They would hook it up over the weekend and we would hear from them the next week. Not the best news, but promising.
On Saturday, Ft. Lauderdale reported no electricity, but the power company had promised full restoration by Sunday at midnight. All weekend we hoped and the test calls continued to those offices without electricity.
Monday, September 18, 2017 Jacksonville reopened. After the news of flooding in that city, and the fears and anxiety, re-opening Jacksonville was a great relief. There remained a tree to be disposed of, and glass to replace, but a relief nonetheless. Monday brought news that Ft. Lauderdale still had no electricity. But the good news was that it would be restored by midnight Monday. The staff was sent home. Miami reported that the chiller was being worked on and we would know soon. Ft. Myers still lacked electricity.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 came. Ft. Myers was re-opened! Ft. Myers, our closest office to Irma landfall! Fifteen of Seventeen offices re-opened and serving the public again, seven days post Irma landfall. But, Ft. Lauderdale again reported no electricity. The good news though was that it would be fully restored by midnight Tuesday and we could reopen Wednesday! With the promises and prognostications, we would very soon be 17 for 17! We installed multiple portable air coolers in Miami. They would cool part of the office to allow us to get some operations back. We started mediating Miami cases telephonically with Mediator Miller and help from other districts.
Wednesday brought disappointment. Would you believe that the promises of Ft. Lauderdale power restoration did not come to pass Wednesday? But, the good news was that all power would definitely be restored by midnight Wednesday, and they "appreciated our patience" in this difficult time. At this point, we were in the Broward elite, the 1%! The news reported that 99% of power customers in Broward were fully restored as of Wednesday. But not us.
So, on my regular posting day, Thursday, September 21, 2017, I was eager to get on the phones and forgot to post. I knew Ft. Lauderdale would be up. We had been promised. And, what are the odds we could be in the 1%? Being the very last last (or very first) is about the same odds as being hit by lightening or winning the lottery, right? But, the morning brought news that power was not back in Ft. Lauderdale. The good news though? It would "definitely be fully restored" by midnight Thursday.
Thursday also brought the realization that those small chillers we had deployed in Miami were not bringing the temperature down. For one thing, they had tiny little water collecting pans. The air is humid, and once they run a couple of hours, that pan is full and the machines turn themselves off to prevent making a mess. Unless someone attends to them 24/7, they will never run long enough to make a difference.
So Thursday brought no blog post. As a result, today you get this update. In a few hours, I will get my daily Ft. Lauderdale call. It may be exuberant: "power is on," and it may be a promise that power will be fully restored by midnight Friday (the power will come on, tomorrow, tomorrow, . . .). I know that the power companies are in a difficult time. They have lots of customers and they all want and need electricity. When it is your turn, it is your turn. Until it is your turn, you wait, listen to promises, and you hope. You would like to plan, keep people informed, and recover. But, instead you wait.
Thursday brought a conference call with the Miami landlord. The portable chiller is in place, ready. But, the building was not designed for such an external device, and so modifications are underway. They are working 18 hour days, redesigning, reworking, and repairing. The machine that we understood would be there last Saturday, and cooling the next week is now there and we understand should be "cooling next week." But, there remain unknowns. How much will it cool?
By that, I mean will it cool the whole building? We are on the 9th floor, and I am assured by my engineer friends that heat in fact rises. Will the portable chill the whole building or the lower floors (driving more heat to the OJCC office)? Will the portable chill the whole building to a comfortable temperature, or a uniform and unworkable malaise, an improvement but not a solution? We will tune in Monday to let you know.
One caller this week suggested that this announcement needs to be more obvious (red text suggested). We will work on that. We have posted continuously on the announcement blog, updating the Hurricane Irma Resources daily, sometimes hourly. As we get the information, you get the information. As we are promised "tomorrow," we promise you tomorrow. As we are disappointed and dismayed, unfortunately so are you.
And, though we are doing our best with what we are given, you have my heartfelt apologies. It is not easy to live through the stress of a storm, I get that. You want to recover, and you want information, I get that. I am sorry that our information has been less than complete as we have relied upon the best data we can glean from those who are actually either "in the know" or who control the situations.
What is next? We intend to restore service in Miami and Broward. To do so, we are shifting all mediations in those counties to telephonic. New notices will continue to flow today and in coming days to alert you to your mediation and time. At least for the rest of September, there will be no live mediations in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Parties and attorneys are expected to be telephonic for these mediations. We get that, it is intended that everyone will be called and no one will be present. If you are in the town the newly assigned mediator is in, and want to come to our mediator's office to attend, you are welcome. But, there is no requirement that you do so.
Out-of-district judges are reviewing MIA and FTL stipulations, settlements and motions that are titled "emergency." we are striving to get you orders and responses. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. That is 24/7/365. If you are in an urgency or emergency, email me (copy opposing parties and/or counsel), and let me know how we can help.
We will continue to push, to question, and to update. Check the blog, follow us on Twitter (@FLJCC). If you know any line repair specialists in the Broward area, our address is
4500 North State Road 7
Building I, Suite 200
Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33319
We would surely be ecstatic to have power restored, so that we can get on with doing your business. But, we understand that there are a fair few of us in that 1% in Broward County and each of us is as eager for power restoration as the next.
I close by reiterating how proud I am to be privileged to work with the consummate professionals of this office. They were visiting offices post-Irma, assessing, evaluating, communicating with me and their staff teams. We have had a great focus on returning to full function. We have had judges and staff around the state jump to volunteer to provide assistance and support. And, this will all bring fruit. Maybe it won't be today, but we are working on it and it will soon. If our information has been too little, too late, too hard to find, I apologize. We will try harder.
Thank you for your patience and support. We understand this has been difficult on you, your clients, your attorneys, your service providers. We get it. Now let's keep on getting back up, helping others back up, and getting people's lives back on track.
Sorry again that I missed Thursday's post. Stay tuned.