Protecting the Gardens from Storm Surge  

North Terrace of Vizcaya's Main House

After Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Vizcaya was impacted by Hurricane Irma, which produced an unprecedented amount of storm surge flooding at Vizcaya. The storm filled the formal Italian gardens with saltwater and debris while also flooding the Café and Shop, the Swimming Pool Grotto and the Café Terrace.

This resulted in millions of dollars of damages and thousands of hours to bring the grounds back to their current luster.

“We were cleaning up for months after Hurricane Irma,” said Ian Simpkins, Vizcaya’s Deputy Director of Horticulture and Urban Agriculture.

After Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Vizcaya was impacted by Hurricane Irma, which produced an unprecedented amount of storm surge flooding at Vizcaya. The storm filled the formal Italian gardens with saltwater and debris while also flooding the Café and Shop, the Swimming Pool Grotto and the Café Terrace.

This resulted in millions of dollars of damages and thousands of hours to bring the grounds back to their current luster.

“We were cleaning up for months after Hurricane Irma,” said Ian Simpkins, Vizcaya’s Deputy Director of Horticulture and Urban Agriculture.

Finding a Solution

The museum has since sought new and innovative solutions to help protect its 10-acre formal Italian gardens from similar weather events in the future. The extensive search produced 5 viable options with a number of variables to be considered, from the museum’s storage capabilities to the amount of protection these solutions could offer.

Although Vizcaya’s location is what makes the property so special, it also presents some challenges. “The gardens are anywhere from 4 to 5 feet above sea level,” explains Simpkins. “This puts on in a very perilous position because storm surge can be anywhere from 1 foot to 10 feet above sea level.”

Some of the surveyed options only protected against static flooding, as can result from rivers or heavy rain. Vizcaya was really in need of a solution for active flooding, which can result from storm surge, wave action, and debris.

The Tiger Dam

Findings concluded that the Tiger Dam, produced by U.S. Flood Control, most closely met our needs.

The system is composed of a series of inflatable tubes made of reinforced vinyl. They are compact and easy to transport as well as activate, filling in just about 10 minutes. They can be filled with salt or freshwater, which allows Vizcaya staff to fill the tubes using a fire hydrant or water from the bay.

The tubes are equipped to handle quite a bit of stress, from crashing washes to debris.

To watch a demonstration of the Tiger Dam in action as well as hear more about this innovative solution, click the video below.

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