Board Letter Reveals Surfside Miami Condo Had Warnings of ‘Accelerating’ Concrete Deterioration

SURFSIDE, FLORIDA - JUNE 24: Search and rescue personnel work in the rubble of the 12-story condo tower that crumbled to the ground after a partial collapse of the building on June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. It is unknown at this time how many people were injured as search-and-rescue …
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There were rising concerns over the condition of the Surfside Miami condo which partially collapsed last week, according to an April board letter that warned the building was in dire need of a thorough assessment and repairs.

The president of the Champlain South Towers condo association wrote to residents in April, detailing the need for millions of dollars in assessments to address the building’s condition.

In the April 9 letter, president Jean Wodnicki cautioned that concrete damage observed in the 40-year-old building could “multiply exponentially over the years,” adding that “observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse over the years”:

The 40-year building inspection is required by law and covers life/safety issues such as structural and electrical. An engineer, Frank Morabito, was hired in 2018 to do an inspection of the building and provide an initial estimate of what would be required in terms of the 40-year inspection, which comes due later this year. Among other things, that estimate indicated that the concrete damage observed would begin to multiply exponentially over the years, and indeed the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection. When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface

“It is impossible to know the extent of the damage to the underlying rebar until the concrete is opened up. Oftentimes the damage is more extensive than can be determined by inspection of the surface,” Wodnicki wrote.

“When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface,” she continued. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated.”

Donna DiMaggio Berger, an attorney for the condo association, said that the results of the 2018 inspection, which WSJ noted “wasn’t enough to determine the full structural problems of the building,” was not unusual.

“Concrete spalling, rebar deterioration—these are not unusual events when you have buildings exposed to corrosive conditions,” Berger said.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The letter states that Frank Morabito was newly rehired as the supervising engineer for the construction project.

Brett Marcy, the representative for Morabito Consultants, said the firm’s 2018 report had said that some repairs needed to be made “in the near future.” Also, although the board voted to hire Mr. Morabito as the engineering consultant for the construction work in 2019, the long contracting process to get Mr. Morabito fully signed on delayed the roofing work until the end of 2020, he said.

The total needed for all projects came to $16,249,095.40, per the letter.

Officials, however, remain focused on search and rescue operations. Eleven people have been confirmed dead and 150 remain unaccounted for.

“We’re not giving up hope,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told CBS 12 News.  “I think the families understand the stakes and they understand a lot of the damage but they are still searching and our hope is [emergency crews] can rescue some people.”

The Florida governor also said investigators will need to go through the “warning signs” prior to the collapse.

“There did appear to be some warning signs on this one. So we’re going to have to go through that,” he said:

When you see something like that and people were raising the concerns and it was basically said ‘oh don’t worry about it,’ and look I mean maybe they had a basis for saying it ultimately wasn’t going to be and maybe we’ll find that out, but it sure seems like in hindsight now that those were things that potentially could have been potentially addressed.

“We’ve been engaged in this from the beginning 100 percent,” DeSantis added. “I’ve been here every day, but even when I’m not here they’re still doing it because we’ve got all the people on the ground that we need.”

Over the weekend, DeSantis’s press secretary debunked misinformation advanced by a Washington Post reporter, who suggested that the governor did not quickly respond to the condo collapse:


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