As Hurricane Irma makes its way toward Florida, requisite preparations are underway at Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach private club and so-called “Winter White House” owned by US president Donald Trump.
“We are closely monitoring Hurricane Irma,” a Trump organization spokesperson told CNN. “Our teams at the Trump properties in Florida are taking all of the proper precautions and following local and Florida State Advisories very closely to ensure that everyone is kept safe and secure.”
Mar-a-Lago is located in a coastal county in southeast Florida that sees regular tidal flooding and has withstood multiple storms since it was built in 1927. In recent years, the estate was in the path of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004, and Wilma in 2005.
Trump received a $17-million insurance payout in 2005 for damage caused by Wilma to the private club. Yet an Associated Press investigation published last year revealed there was little evidence of large-scale damage to Mar-a-Lago, and that Trump also kept some of the insurance money for his personal use rather than spending it on repairs. From the AP:
Two years after a series of storms, the real-estate tycoon said he didn’t know how much had been spent on repairs but acknowledged he pocketed some of the money. Trump transferred funds into his personal accounts, saying that under the terms of his policy, “you didn’t have to reinvest it.”
Separately, in a deposition related to a 2007 libel lawsuit, Trump had described the damage to the property as significant. “Landscaping, roofing, walls, painting, leaks, artwork in the—you know, the great tapestries, tiles, Spanish tiles, the beach, the erosion,” he said then. “It’s still not what it was.”
Others familiar with the storm’s effects at Mar-a-Lago, including Trump employees, remember it differently.
“That house has never been seriously damaged,” Trump’s long-time (and controversial) former butler Anthony Senecal said in an interview with the AP. “I was there for all of [the hurricanes].”
The AP also looked at building records and permits that showed no significant construction took place at Mar-a-Lago after the storm, aside from $3,000 in repairs to lighting and a cleaning of a beachfront pool.
As of this morning (Sept. 7), Palm Beach County is under a state of emergency. Officials told residents to stock up on food, water, and supplies to last a week and put up storm shutters, if possible.
Public Safety Director Kirk Blouin told the Palm Beach Daily he’s not aware of any extra storm protection underway at Mar-a-Lago, and a local reporter who drove by the property told CNN she saw no exterior preparations.