President Trump’s oceanfront “Winter White House” estate in Florida has shut down as Hurricane Irma threatens to barrel on through the area this weekend.
Located in ritzy Palm Beach, Mar-a-Largo shuttered up on Friday, according to the Trump Organization.
The president’s other Florida properties – including the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach and the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter – have also closed for the same reason.
People staying at the hotel Trump National Doral were advised by the organization to get out of the storm’s path.
“We are no longer accepting any new reservations at this time, and in the event that the city of Doral is included in any evacuation order, affected guests will be required to find alternate lodging outside of the evacuation zone or possibly relocate to an evacuation center,” the organization said in a statement. “We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to victims of Hurricane Harvey and are praying for those that are in the path of Hurricane Irma.”
Mar-a-Lago has nicely weathered four major hurricanes in the 90 years since cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, financier E.F. Hutton, built the 126-room, 62,500-square foot mansion. It cost them $5 million, which would be the equivalent of almost $70 million today.
Bisecting a narrow barrier island, which is flanked by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the three-acre estate stands exposed to the harsher elements of tropical weather, but the mansion’s walls are three-feet thick and anchored by steel and concrete beams embedded into coral rock.
“It’s the safest place in the world for a hurricane,” said Anthony Senecal, Trump’s longtime butler and Mar-a-Lago’s unofficial historian, in an interview with The Associated Press last year. “That house ain’t going nowhere. That house has never been seriously damaged. That construction, stop and think about it. There were 300 guys that worked on the outside of that building.”
According to Jeff Masters, director of the Weather Underground forecasting service, the biggest threat to Mar-a-Lago won’t be Irma’s 140 mph winds, it will be storm surge, which he said could reach eight feet in a worst-case scenario. An interactive map by Climate Central shows that a more likely six-foot sea rise would put some of the property’s low-lying areas in danger, and an eight-foot surge could cause some water damage to the main buildings.
Trump bought the property in 1985 for $10 million. He then spent millions refurbishing it before turning it into a club in 1995. Mar-a-Lago now features 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, tennis and croquet courts, and three bomb shelters.
Once it became apparent that Mar-a-Lago would become the unofficial Winter White House, the Trump Organization doubled the club’s initiation fee to $200,000. Roughly 500 members belong to Mar-a-Lago, and they pay $14,000 in annual dues. President Trump has spent seven weekends at the resort since his inauguration.
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Vast military response to Irma underway