Wednesday, October 26, 2005

South Florida Mess

Abby Goodnough and Joe Treaster report from Miami for the New York Times:
South Florida was a coast-to-coast mess on Tuesday as millions of people remained without power, huge lines formed for basic supplies and drivers wove through packed, debris-strewn streets with no traffic signals.

Despite Gov. Jeb Bush's assurances that recovery from Hurricane Wilma would proceed smoothly after lessons learned from seven previous storms, the government response looked frayed. In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, people lined up for ice and water only to learn that government deliveries of both were late.

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Many busy intersections had no police officers to guide impatient drivers. Schools and most businesses remained closed as dazed multitudes wandered in search of food, gasoline and cellphone reception.

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A day after Hurricane Wilma struck, leaving at least six dead, power had been restored to several hundred thousand households and businesses by Tuesday evening. But 3.1 million still had no electricity, including about 93 percent of customers in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Eleven other counties also reported power failures, many of them widespread. Officials at Florida Power and Light said some customers might have to wait four weeks.
About midday, Allen Breed of the Associated Press was reporting:
The mayor of Miami-Dade County warned that emergency supplies were dwindling Wednesday, a new blow to victims of Hurricane Wilma who had hoped to avoid another frustrating day of long lines for food and water.

At least one distribution site in Miami-Dade was out of supplies, and the other 10 were running low with material from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Mayor Carlos Alvarez said.

"We are not hoarding supplies anywhere. They have been distributed," he said. "When this inventory runs out at these different distribution centers, we do not know and FEMA cannot tell us when they will be resupplied."

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There were signs of progress Wednesday in Florida: More streets were cleared of debris, a few restaurants opened and domestic flights resumed at Miami International Airport. Even trash removal returned to some areas.

Many residents, however, shared frustration over what they felt was the slow pace of aid. Trucks carrying the first wave of relief - food, ice and water - either arrived much later than local officials expected Tuesday or didn't show up at all.
One of those blogging Wilma, Pamibe from Pompano Beach, managed to get one message out after the storm, explaining, "I’m running a laptop off the car battery, since there’s no power, no battery backup, no DSL… not alot of anything except fools running up and down the roads sightseeing."

Similarly, Blog Wilma used a laptop and a dial-up connection to report, "Wow this storm was way worst then I originally thought. This is the first time my neighborhood has lost power in years, and has seen so much damage. South Florida got hit hard."

Neither has been heard from since Monday.

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