By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer
Floridians lined up for water, gas, ice and generators Tuesday outside
the few stores that were open after Hurricane Wilma cut a costly,
deadly swath across the peninsula.
The storm slammed across the state in about seven hours Monday,
causing billions in insured damage and leaving 5.9 million people, or
a little less than 3 million homes and businesses, without electricity
and phones. More than 5,000 residents remained in shelters Tuesday as
the hurricane's remnants headed toward the North Atlantic.
Wilma was blamed for at least five deaths in Florida. Earlier,
authorities reported six deaths in the state but on Tuesday they
revised the total to five deaths.
Officials of Florida's three most populous areas -- Miami-Dade,
Broward and Palm Beach counties -- prepared to distribute ice, water
and other essentials to residents Tuesday, while utilities warned that
restoration of phones and power could stretch into weeks.
"It will be days or weeks before we are back to normal," Miami-Dade
Mayor Carlos Alvarez said.
Before smashing into Florida, Wilma killed at least six people in
Mexico and 13 others in Jamaica and Haiti.
The storm devastated resort towns along Mexico's Caribbean coast,
severely flooding the tourist hotspot Cancun, where looters ransacked
entire blocks of stores. Thousands of tourists remained stranded along
the resort-studded Yucatan coast Tuesday.
In Cuba, the storm flooded Havana's streets and ripped off chunks of
the famous Malecon seawall.
In Florida, most stores remained closed because of the widespread
power outages, creating long lines at those that were open. More than
500 people queued up outside a Broward County Super Wal-Mart, which
was letting in about 20 people at a time.
The first person in line, Joyce Carr, had been waiting several hours
in hopes of buying a generator only to learn the store was out. But
she still wanted to buy a grill, charcoal and water.
"We've heard different reports that the power will be out for some
time so we're worried about supplies for our family," Carr said.
Gov. Jeb Bush thanked emergency workers for their efforts.
"My heart goes out to people that have lost a lot and they can be rest
assured that the state government and the federal government will be
working to provide support," he added Tuesday in Miami.
His brother, President Bush, signed a disaster declaration Monday and
promised swift help. He plans to travel to Florida on Thursday.
"There are a lot of people without power and that's obviously a
priority right now," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said
Tuesday. "We're working to support the state of Florida's efforts, and
they were well prepared for this."
Miami-Dade and Broward authorities reported few problems despite the
loss of power. Fourteen people were arrested for violating a curfew in
Miami-Dade, where fewer than 10 looting arrests were made. Broward had
six reports of looting, with one arrest.
Wilma, the eighth hurricane to strike or pass by Florida in 15 months,
landed on Florida's Gulf coast as a Category 3 hurricane, littering
the landscape with power lines, wrecked signs, torn awnings and other
Trees and roofs dotted expressways, and all three of South Florida's
major airports -- Miami International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and
Palm Beach -- were closed. Miami's airport might not reopen until
Wednesday, spokesman Marc Henderson said.
"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
At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Wilma was centered about 570 miles
east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The system had weakened to a
Category 2 storm with 105 mph sustained wind but was moving incredibly
fast for a tropical system -- 53 mph. It was expected to lose its
tropical characteristics over the cooler Atlantic late Tuesday or
Although it was so far out to sea, it was contributing moisture to a
nor'easter that was blowing through the Northeast, causing power
outages in Connecticut and Massachusetts and hammering New Jersey
beaches with 20-foot waves.
On Florida's Turnpike near Miami, dozens of cars waited to get gas at
a station that had power. At the Orange Bowl near downtown Miami, cars
stretched at least half a mile at a distribution point for ice and
"I wasn't prepared for anything. I never thought it would be this
bad," said Virginia Davila, 29, as she waited at the stadium.
Ellen Seigel, 56, of Naples, sat on a bench in the neighborhood near
downtown Fort Lauderdale where she was staying. The street was
littered with broken glass and pieces of foam insulation as people
bought carts full of water and milk in a drug store.
"I haven't seen anybody that's in bad humor at all," Seigel said.
"Especially after what happened in Katrina, I think people are just
thankful that they're safe. I mean, how can anybody complain about
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 said two people were dead in Collier County, one in Palm
Beach County, one in Broward County and one in St. Johns County.
Associated Press writers Michelle Spitzer in Coral Springs, David Royse in
Key West and Adrian Sainz in Miami contributed to this report.
On the Net:
National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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