Irma-whipped Miami Beach restaurant survives storm after storm for 26 years

"Miami Beach is built for storms," owner says.

September 12, 2017, 1:43 PM

— -- Miami Beach residents and business owners returned this morning to inspect the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma, but pulling through a storm is nothing new for one Miami Beach restaurant owner.

David Wallack, owner of Mango's Tropical Cafe restaurant, says his business has been open for 26 years and has survived every hurricane since, even Hurricane Andrew, which devastated the Miami area in 1992.

"The buildings blocked things out and trees take the damage," Wallack told ABC News this morning. "Miami Beach is built for storms."

But Wallack says he still heads into each hurricane prepared.

"You don't go into a battle thinking you're not going to get it," he said. "You go into it trained, head on and you do everything as safely and as carefully as you know how to do it."

He called the size of Irma -- and its eye wall, especially -- "unprecedented."

"The eye wall was just so drastic that that was the fear -- he who gets that is really going to catch the bullet -- and the [Florida] Keys caught it and they are decimated," he said.

And "Naples -- the west coast [of Florida] -- caught it,” he added.

He said Miami Beach was "very lucky" to avoid the brunt of the storm.

"The outer wall that we caught, the whole outer sweep, we were very, very lucky ... that eastern sweep didn't give us the real bang and eastern punch that would've drowned us," he said. "The dune held the line. Those who built the dune on Miami Beach, great job."

As Irma tore through South Florida this weekend, Wallack said he stayed just a few blocks away from the restaurant and was able to come check on the building regularly.

"We were able to get over here even during the hurricane, but it was very, very dangerous out. The wind was whipping over 110 miles per hour," he said. "We saw one person blowing away in the street, who shouldn't have been out there and we almost had to go out there and rescue him ... but he finally, the guy got up, made it over to a wall and into a safe area."

While much of Miami Beach was littered with downed trees and street signs, the city appeared to escape without major structural damage.

Mango's Tropical Cafe made it through with such minimal damage that Wallack said he is planning to reopen Thursday night.

While other cities aren't as lucky, Wallack says, hurricane-prone Floridians are resilient rebuilders.

"Our job is to see it, suffer through it and rebuild," he said. "The survivors rebuild."

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