Hurricane Irma: Florida recovery hampered by gas, power outages

By Ed Adamczyk
Hurricane Irma: Florida recovery hampered by gas, power outages
A destroyed trailer sits in Southwind Village Trailer Park on Tuesday after Hurricane Irma slammed into Naples, Fla. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Millions of Floridians entered another day without electricity or Internet service Wednesday, as many trying to travel back to their homes after evacuating for Hurricane Irma faced gas shortages and gridlock on the road.

The number of people who died as a result of the storm climbed to 22 in the United States -- five of them in a Hollywood, Fla., nursing home that had been without power for days.


Florida Power & Light Co., which provides electricity to most of the state, said late Tuesday that power had been restored to 2.3 million customers.

The company said everyone on Florida's Atlantic coast should see a return to power by Sunday, with customers on the harder-hit Gulf Coast should expect full power to return by Sept. 22.

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While much of South Florida remains without power, the outdoor temperature has climbed to 90 degrees.

Traffic in northern Florida, especially along Interstate 10, Interstate 75 and Florida's Turnpike was slow moving. To make matters worse, a rising river threatened the possibility that I-75 would have to be closed.

Gas also remained scarce. Gas Buddy reported that only less than half of gas stations had fuel in several counties Wednesday morning.

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Bridges in the Florida Keys, where initial FEMA estimates indicated that 90 percent of structures were destroyed or damaged, were inspected Tuesday and declared safe for vehicles, indicating that residents who evacuated will soon be permitted to return.

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FP&L said it might be one of the largest power restorations in U.S. history.

Two 300-foot-long stretches of road, washed out by the Category 4 hurricane, are hurriedly being replaced. The Upper Keys, including the islands of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, were opened early Tuesday -- but water, power, sewer, cellphone and medical services remain limited. The Keys' three hospitals remain closed.

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Residents of Miami Beach also returned on Tuesday. Iconic Ocean Drive was littered with downed trees and sand from the storm surge. Miami International Airport also reopened, with a limited schedule.

Storm-related fatalities reported across the state so far include victims of vehicle accidents, an electrocution, a tree that struck a man sleeping in his home, a passenger in a vehicle struck by a tree and carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of generators.

Five people died in the evacuation Wednesday of a nursing home that was left without power in Hollywood, police said.


Three of the deaths occurred at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, with two more as patients arrived at a hospital, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said Wednesday.

At least 37 others died as the hurricane moved through the Caribbean, and two deaths were reported in South Carolina and two in Georgia as the storm diminished but prompted storm surges along the Atlantic coast.

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he would be traveling to Florida on Thursday. He also urged Congress to tackle tax reform.

"With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!," he tweeted.

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