The call came in at 3:23 a.m. Sunday. A woman from the Little Haiti neighborhood, just outside of downtown Miami, told a dispatcher that she was in labor.
But strong winds brought by Hurricane Irma, a massive and powerful Category 4 storm making its way to the Florida Keys, had become too dangerous for paramedics and fire crews to respond to dozens of emergency calls, Assistant Fire Chief Pete Gomez said. Crews were able to respond to only four overnight. The call from the woman in labor was not one of them.
She called again at 5:35 a.m. She was about to give birth.
A conference call was convened between the woman and the emergency crews who couldn’t get to her. Paramedics, a dispatcher and a doctor from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami all walked her through her own childbirth – including delivering the placenta and cutting the umbilical cord. The dispatcher told her how to tie it off, Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia told the Miami Herald.
“Baby came out good, healthy,” Gomez said. “The woman was doing good, too.”
As soon as it was safe for crews to travel, the woman and her baby girl were taken to the hospital Sunday morning.
Gomez, who wasn’t in the conference call, said he does not know if the woman was with someone while she was giving birth at home, or how long the entire call took. Authorities are not releasing her name.
The fire department received more than 430 calls from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday, Gomez said. Crews were able to respond to every emergency incident, until about midnight, when Gomez said they had to make judgment calls on what’s too dangerous and what’s not.
The fire department did not respond to 81 fire calls, including reports of downed wires and automatic alarms, and was able to get to only one house fire. The agency received 41 medical calls, but was able to transport only three people to the hospital, including a child with fever and a man who was bleeding heavily because of a deep cut on his arm, Gomez said.
The Miami-Dade Police Department also said Sunday morning that its officers cannot respond to emergency calls and warned residents to stay indoors.
Earlier last week, though, the police department was able to help a woman and her newborn move to a hotel, where they’ll wait out the storm, the Miami Herald reported. The mother from Key West had fled to Miami-Dade County to avoid the brunt of Irma, then still projected to be a Category 5 hurricane. Her daughter, whom she named Nayiri Storm, was delivered at Baptist Hospital in Kendall, Florida, southwest of Miami.
The eye of Irma passed over the Florida Keys at 9 a.m. Sunday, with peak winds at 130 mph. The slow-moving storm is expected to wallop the west coast of Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa, The Washington Post reported. A second landfall somewhere on the west coast is possible later Sunday.
Florida’s east coast was largely spared, but the storm’s wide-ranging spiral bands unleashed destructive winds with gusts of up to 80 mph in coastal Miami-Dade County. The Weather Channel warned that wind gusts in Miami could reach 100 mph.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kristine Phillips