2021 was another unprecedented year. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, political uprisings, natural disasters — something majorly newsworthy happened seemingly every week in South Florida this year.
When we looked back at our top stories of 2021, we found that what readers engaged with the most were the stories that followed the tragic collapse of a condominium in a small town in Miami-Dade County.
And, of course, several stories that are "so Florida," you just had to click, read and share — including an "ugly" river monster and the world's deadliest tree.
Here are the top 10 stories that you read on NBC6.com in 2021.
1. Surveillance footage showed the partial collapse of a beachfront condominium in Surfside
The Surfside tragedy on June 24 is one of the country's deadliest structural collapses. Shocking surveillance footage shows the moments a wing of the Champlain Towers South crumbled to the ground in a matter of seconds. Ninety-eight people died in the collapse, and it took workers nearly a month to recover victims from the rubble. The cause of the collapse has yet to be determined, but records show the 40-year-old building had significant structural damage in its underground parking garage.
Read more here. (Warning: footage may be disturbing for some viewers)
2. A 10-foot-long river monster emerged as Florida's newest invasive predator
Early this year, a dead monster fish mysteriously washed ashore in Cape Coral along the Caloosahatchee River. It's called the arapaima, which can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds. The creature is native to the Amazon River in South America and is one of the world’s largest predatory fish with scales as impenetrable as armor.
If you're curious about the monster fish that many people say is ugly, read more about it here.
3. A waitress's watchful eye and quick actions may have saved a child's life
When a waitress at an Orlando restaurant noticed bruises on an 11-year-old boy's arms, she flashed him a handwritten note — "Do you need help?" — when the child's parents weren't looking. He nodded yes, and she called the police. The boy's mother and stepfather were later arrested for child neglect and abuse.
Click here for more details.
4. The still-standing portion of the Surfside condo got demolished
More than a week after the Surfside building collapse, authorities made the decision to demolish the remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South in effort to open up new areas for rescue teams to search for more victims. The building was demolished at approximately 10:30 p.m. on July 4. Crews resumed their search shortly after.
Watch the demolition here.
5. DeSantis declared a state of emergency as people panic-bought gas amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown
Back in May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an order to activate the Florida National Guard amid concerns of gas shortages and price hikes after a cyberattack by the criminal hackers of DarkSide on a critical U.S. fuel pipeline. South Florida's gas supply was not impacted, but residents in northwest Florida reported waiting in long lines to fill up their cars. The hack and shutdown fueled unwarranted panic-buying among drivers.
6. A Florida Man who was photographed taking Nancy Pelosi's lectern during the Capitol riot was arrested
A number of Floridians were arrested in connection with their participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, but Adam Johnson made headlines after he was photographed proudly taking the House Speaker's lectern. Johnson, who lives in Manatee County, pled guilty in November to one count of entering or remaining in any restricted building.
7. Gunmen opened fire into a crowd outside of a NW Miami-Dade banquet hall
The May 30 mass shooting outside of El Mula Banquet Hall killed three people and injured about 20 others. Authorities called the shooting a "targeted and cowardly act" as people attended an album release party at the venue. Davonte Barnes, 22, was arrested months later on first-degree murder charges. Warneric Buckner, 20, was arrested in October, but his charges were later dropped after prosecutors said detectives improperly got a confession after he asked for an attorney.
Here's the article from when the shooting happened.
Related: Some of Florida's most bizarre moments of 2021
8. Many wondered why they haven't received their third stimulus check
The government doled out stimulus checks to millions of Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but some back in March weren't seeing the $1,400 payment in their bank accounts. If they checked on the Internal Revenue Service’s website, it might have shown them this prompt: "Payment Status Not Available." We showed people what to do if they faced that problem.
9. The aftermath of Surfside: Residents were ordered to vacate 'unsafe' North Miami Beach condominium
As South Florida communities grappled with the Surfside tragedy, hundreds of residents at the Crestview Towers Condominium were ordered to evacuate their homes after a building inspection report outlined unsafe structural and electrical conditions. This was in response to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava ordering an audit of buildings that were 40 years old and older following the collapse. The Crestview Towers was nine years late submitting its 40-year recertification. City records show the building racked up nearly $600,000 in fines for violations over the years.
10. The world's deadliest tree is in — you guessed it — Florida
The Manchineel tree, found in the Florida Everglades and parts of the Caribbean coast, was dubbed the most dangerous tree in the world by "The Guinness Book of World Records" in 2011, but interest in the tree was reignited when the Weather Channel posted about it on their Instagram account in November. The Manchineel looks like a normal apple-like tree, but everything from the bark, sap and fruit can be incredibly dangerous to humans. Even standing under it in the rain can cause blistering.
So even trees can be deadly. Who knew? Find out more here.
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