South Floridians began to comprehend the long-term effects of Hurricane Wilma on Tuesday (Oct. 25), as it became increasingly clear that residents could spend the next few days, if not weeks, waiting in lines for basic supplies, coveting working showers and toilets, and in many cases, kicking themselves for underestimating the damage a Category 2 storm could bring.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, although state officials had bragged about their readiness for Wilma, as of late Tuesday afternoon no water or ice had arrived at any of the distribution centers in southern Florida’s Broward Co., where state aid had been promised by noon. Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade centers also reported problems.
“Everybody wants everything yesterday,” said Paul Ready of Oakland Park, who began trolling for water and ice early Tuesday but found a local store already picked clean.
Florida Power & Light said it had restored service to more than 500,000 people, but more than 6 million remained without electricity Tuesday. Officials are still estimating it could take weeks to restore power.
Water was restored in several cities, but residents were cautioned to boil it before drinking. Curfews remained in affect for Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Adding to the frustration was the fact that South Florida had not been declared eligible for federal assistance as of Tuesday, a status granted Monday to Collier, Lee and Monroe Counties on Florida’s west coast.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials who visited West Palm Beach, Miami and Key West with Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday said the destruction was worse than they expected and hope to persuade Washington to provide individual assistance grants to help residents cover their losses.
“The damage is extensive,” the governor said.