Wilma leaves 6M without power in Florida
Updated: 2005-10-25 20:18
Beginning an agonizing, all-too-familiar process,
Floridians lined up for generators, chain saws and other clean-up supplies only
hours after Hurricane Wilma cut a costly, deadly swath across the peninsula.
A sailboat sits on the sidewalk in the
aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, Monday, Oct. 24, 2005 in Aventura, Fla.
Wilma knifed through Florida with winds up to 125 mph Monday, shattering
windows in skyscrapers, peeling away roofs and knocking out power to 6
million people, with still a month left to go in the busiest Atlantic
storm season on record. [AP]
The storm slammed across the state in about seven hours Monday, causing
billions in insured damage and leaving 6 million people without electricity.
Wilma was blamed for at least six and possibly as many as eight deaths
Officials in the state's three most populous areas — Miami-Dade, Broward and
Palm Beach counties — were prepping to distribute ice, water and other items to
storm-struck residents Tuesday, while utility-restoration efforts could stretch
"It will be days or weeks before we are back to normal," Miami-Dade Mayor
Carlos Alvarez said.
President Bush promised swift help for the storm-ravaged areas. He signed a
disaster declaration and was briefed on the situation by Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff, acting FEMA director David Paulison and Bush's
brother, Gov. Jeb Bush.
"We have pre-positioned food, medicine, communications equipment, urban
search-and-rescue teams," the president said. "We will work closely with local
and state authorities to respond to this hurricane."
The hurricane arrived as a Category 3 and littered the landscape with damaged
signs, awnings, fences, billboards, roof tiles, pool screens, street lights and
Felled trees and blown roofs dotted expressways, and all three of South
Florida's major airports — Miami International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and
Palm Beach — were closed, halting air travel.
"Miami is a major point, and this is a major disruption," said John Hotard, a
spokesman for American Airlines — which has a major hub in Miami.
At a Home Depot in Weston, about 22 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, about 100
people stood outside in line Monday night, many seeking generators, propane
tanks and other supplies. They were being let in 10 at a time to prevent
"Nobody's arguing, nobody's fighting, nobody's pushing," said Garry
Greenough, who had 10 trees fall in his yard, one on his home. He needed a chain
saw to cut the debris.
At 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Wilma's center was located about 310 miles east of
Cape Hatteras, N.C. The system was still a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds,
and was moving incredibly fast for a tropical system — 53 mph. It was expected
to lose its tropical characteristics over cooler Atlantic waters late Tuesday or
Yet the mainland may still get one last brush with Wilma. It was expected to
link up with an area of low pressure already off the coast, raising fears about
renewed flooding in areas already hit hard by eight consecutive days of rain
earlier this month.
A flood watch was issued for Tuesday covering most of Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, along with parts of northern Connecticut and southern New Hampshire. By
midnight Monday, heavy rain was falling across New Jersey.
Unseasonably cool temperatures hovered over much of Florida early Tuesday,
meaning the lack of air conditioning wasn't making a tough situation even more
unbearable for those in Wilma's path.
Officials warned residents to boil water in parts of Palm Beach, Broward and
Miami-Dade counties. A water main breach in downtown Miami sprayed water 15 feet
in the air.
"We've lived here 37 years and we've never had a hurricane like this," said
Paul Kramer, 71, of Tamarac, in Broward County. "We didn't expect this. This one
got our attention."
In Key West, Chuck Coleman's routine also was broken. Normally this time of
year, his two charter fishing boats would be packed with out-of-towners hoping
to chase sailfish.
But on Monday he was standing on the dock, losing perhaps $1,000 a day until
the customers come back. Although the dock took a beating and the fish freezer
is a loss, the boats weren't damaged by Wilma. But they can't run if there's no
one to go fishing.
"Without tourists we die," said Coleman. "There is no other form of income."
Eqecat Inc., a risk modeling firm, said early estimates projected that
Wilma's insured losses would range from $2 billion to $6 billion. AIR Worldwide
Corp. estimated that insurance companies will have to pay claims ranging from $6
billion to $9 billion. Risk Management Solutions estimated a range of $6 billion
to $10 billion.
Authorities confirmed that two people were dead in Collier County, two in
Palm Beach County, one in Broward County and one in St. Johns County. Before
hitting Florida, the storm killed at least six people in Mexico and 13 others in
Jamaica and Haiti as it made is way across the Caribbean.
There were reports early Tuesday of a third death in Palm Beach and a second
in Broward, although officials in both counties could not immediately provide
confirmation of those fatalities.
To underscore the storm's vast reach, a tornado touched down near Melbourne
on the east coast, 200 miles from landfall, damaging an apartment complex. No
one was injured.
Wilma, the eighth hurricane to strike Florida in 15 months, prompted Monique
Kilgore to use a handsaw and shears to get rid of debris in front of her Fort
"I want my house to look nice," she said. "I'm also bored. I can't sit in the
house any longer. No power, no lights — you know."