FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Hurricane Irma is likely to test President Donald Trump’s longtime boast that his Mar-a-Lago mansion can withstand any storm.
If history is any guide, the smart money this weekend will be on the house.
Strikes by four major hurricanes have done little damage to Mar-a-Lago 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 (5,800-square meter) mansion. It cost them $5 million — the equivalent of almost $70 million today.
The 3-acre (1.2 hectare) Palm Beach estate is quite exposed to tropical weather, bisecting a narrow barrier island, flanked by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. But the mansion’s walls are 3-feet (1 meter) thick, 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.”
Jeff Masters, director of the Weather Underground forecasting service, said Thursday that the biggest threat to Mar-a-Lago won’t be Irma’s winds, which could top 140 mph (225 kph) when it reaches Palm Beach. Instead, it will be storm surge, which he said could reach 8 feet (2.4 meters) in a worst-case scenario. An interactive map by Climate Central shows that a more likely 6-foot (1.8-meter) sea rise would put some of the property’s low-lying areas at peril. An 8-foot surge could cause some water damage to the main buildings.
Trump bought the property in 1985, when it was in disrepair, for $10 million, and spent…