breaking news

Senate confirms Pompeo as secretary of state

NEW: Shutters still up after Irma? Is it finally time to remove them?


It’s time to take down your hurricane shutters, Palm Beach County.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Irma littered the area with debris, code enforcement crews are hitting the streets with another eyesore to monitor: shutters and plywood covering windows and doors.

In Wellington, code requires residents remove hurricane shutters from windows within 72 hours of “a storm event.” When a homeowner is absent — that includes residents who may be seasonal — shutters can be up for two 15-day periods during hurricane season.

READ: How to help with Wellington’s holiday food drive

With code enforcement tied up with Irma cleanup, residents had an informal grace period. But as hurricane season comes to a close on Nov. 30, the time has come for the shutters to be taken down, Wellington Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said.

“You can’t leave your shutters on your home year-round,” he said.

In West Palm Beach, permitted shutters can remain up indefinitely per city code, but unpermitted shutters or plywood need to be taken down unless there is a watch or warning in effect. In 2007, the West Palm Beach Commission voted to mandate shutters be taken down within three days of a storm. It later repealed the ordinance after social agencies raised concern about forcing seniors to take such quick action.

While the rules are somewhat about the aesthetics of having homes scattered throughout neighborhoods with shutters covering their windows, there is bigger concern.

“It’s a life safety issue,” Barnes said.

READ: What’s being built in Royal Palm Beach near the fairgrounds?

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue encourages residents to remove shutters as soon as possible following a storm. In early October, Fire Rescue crews were forced to cut through aluminum storm shutters to save a man after his Acreage home caught fire. And in 2012, a Fire Rescue team had to force open shutters to battle a blaze at an Aero Club home. No one was home at the time of that fire.

Many HOAs in Palm Beach County already have sent warning notices to residents.

One neighborhood in Lake Clarke Shores took the approach of a blanket heads-up to property owners: “While we near the end of hurricane season there are a handful of residents that still have their shutters and or plywood on the windows,” the note reads, adding that residents have until Nov. 5 to comply. “Keeping them up poses a potential safety hazard and it is important for them to be taken down promptly.”

Still, some residents were hesitant to handle their cumbersome plywood and metal window coverings as Hurricane Jose threatened Florida hot on the heels of Irma. However, a drive through some communities in the county now shows a few homes that still have plywood covering windows on their top floors or side windows.

READ: Why the tropics bear watching this November

“I can honestly say mine are still up cause I’m a single mom and just haven’t had the manpower to help,” said Kristen Lee Winner of Loxahatchee said Thursday.

A neighbor who helped her put up the shutters has been unavailable to help her take them down.

“I have two teens but they are only with me every other week, and so busy with school and volunteering elsewhere,” she added.

Stacie Draper said she put up metal and plastic shutters on her Acreage home 24 hours before Hurricane Irma came barreling through. They’ve been on her house since, and she plans to take them down this weekend.

“With the crazy weather we have had, I didn’t care if they were up all season,” she said.

Property owners first will receive a warning in Wellington, Barnes said. “Ultimately our goal isn’t to make it punitive, our goal is compliance,” he added.

READ: Here’s how Wellington could handle medical pot dispensaries

Residents will have a set period of time in which they need to comply with the warning. Those who need more time, depending on the circumstances, can get an extension, Barnes said.

Homeowners also could face a separate warning and possible fines from homeowners’ associations, many of which have strict rules about how long shutters can remain on windows, Barnes said.

Palm Beach County Code Enforcement Director Robert Santos-Alborna said if a home is boarded up with hurricane shutters, state code requires there be emergency escape openings in every room, but it doesn’t specify a number of days they can be covered. If a home is vacant, the shutters can remain up indefinitely.

“A lot of people complain because it can be unsightly,” Santos-Alborna said. “But there is nothing under property maintenance code that forbids it.”

Barnes said safety is the important factor.

“It does make it an issue if there’s a fire,” he said.

RELATED: The Briston and Hurricane Irma: Did protective windows hold up?

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers Kimberly Miller and Julius Whigham II contributed to this report.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

What a catch! Florida fisherman reels in 120-pound catfish
What a catch! Florida fisherman reels in 120-pound catfish

Joel Singletary has just reeled in the granddaddy of all catfish. The Florida man caught the 120-pounder April 11 on the Choctawhatchee River, which flows into sunshine state from Alabama.  The blue catfish caused quite a splash and is still making waves days later with everyone awing over it.  Weighing in at 1.7 times more than the...
State settles with popular Boca teacher who district tried to fire
State settles with popular Boca teacher who district tried to fire

An award-winning Boca Raton High teacher who survived school district leaders’ attempt to fire her last year for her actions while mentoring a troubled student has agreed to pay a state fine to settle the case. Samantha Major, now a psychology teacher at Spanish River High, was targeted for termination by Palm Beach County’s public schools...
Search continues for man suspected of shooting, killing deputy in Maine
Search continues for man suspected of shooting, killing deputy in Maine

Authorities are searching for a man believed to have shot and killed a sheriff's deputy in Maine early Wednesday.
Wellington renews farm’s $40,000-a-year lease on K-Park property
Wellington renews farm’s $40,000-a-year lease on K-Park property

Wellington will extend for another year a lease with a farmer for the village’s sprawling K-Park property. The $40,000-a-year contract was approved Tuesday by Wellington’s village council. It keeps J. Alderman Farms Inc. on the land through at least June 30, 2019. The farm’s use of K-Park has several benefits, village manager Paul...
NEW: PBSO seeks killer in West Palm man’s April 2016 slaying
NEW: PBSO seeks killer in West Palm man’s April 2016 slaying

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in tracking down the person who killed a suburban West Palm Beach man two years ago Thursday. Nikenson Valentin, 22, was shot to death April 25, 2016, in the 5600 block of Coconut Road, off Southern Boulevard near Palm Beach International Airport. The sheriff&rsquo...
More Stories