Florida residents await a slow return to power after Ian


Nearly a week after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida and carved a path of destruction across the Carolinas, hundreds of thousands of people faced another day without power on Tuesday as rescuers continued their search for anyone trapped in flooded and damaged homes.

At least 79 people have been confirmed dead by the storm: 71 in Florida, five in North Carolina and three in Cuba since Ian made landfall on the Caribbean island on September 27, a day before it hit Florida.

The number of storm-related deaths has increased in recent days due to the dangers posed by the cleanup and search and rescue teams scouring some of Florida’s hardest-hit areas.

Officials said as of Monday more than 2,350 people were rescued across the state.

Power restoration takes priority

Christina Barrett walks among water-damaged furniture outside her home in North Port, Florida on Tuesday. Residents of Florida’s west coast continue to clean up after Hurricane Ian made landfall last week. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

Ian knocked out power to 2.6 million customers across Florida after roaring ashore with 150 mph winds and powerful storm surge.

Since then, the teams have been working feverishly to restore the electrical infrastructure. State officials said they expect power to be restored by Sunday for customers whose power lines and other electrical infrastructure are still intact.

In Naples, Kelly Sedgwick had just seen news footage on Monday of the devastation caused by Ian, thanks to power which was restored four days after the hurricane hit her community of around 22,000 people on the Gulf Coast .

She said she was « relieved » to have her power back and praised the crews for their hard work: « They did an amazing job. »

A few miles north along the coast, in Bonita Springs, Catalina Mejilla’s family weren’t so lucky. She was still using a borrowed generator to try to keep her children and their grandfather cool amid temperatures in the usually humid area that reached around 30 degrees Celsius.

« The heat is unbearable, » Mejilla said. « When there’s no electricity…we can’t make food, we don’t have gasoline. »

She added: « I think they should empower the people who need it most. »

On Tuesday, residents walk through a flooded neighborhood in North Port, Florida. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

About 430,000 homes and businesses in Florida were still without power as of Tuesday morning.

Restoring electricity is always a major challenge after major hurricanes, when high winds and flying debris can knock down power lines or important parts of electrical infrastructure.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power and Light, said the utility has invested US$4 billion over the past 10 years to strengthen its infrastructure by doing things like burying more than power lines, noting that 40% of its distribution system is now underground.

Florida Power and Light — the state’s largest supplier — is also using more technologies such as drones to get a better picture of system damage. It uses sensors in substations that can alert them to flooding so they can shut down parts of the system before water arrives.

The utility expects power to be restored to 95% of its service areas by the end of the day Friday, Silagy said.

The storm is now a northeast

Residents behind a “you loot, we shoot” sign clean up their flooded property in North Port, Florida on Tuesday. Area residents continue to clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, plan to visit Florida on Wednesday. The US president was in Puerto Rico on Monday, vowing to « rebuild everything » after Hurricane Fiona knocked out all power to the island two weeks ago.

Elsewhere, remnants of the hurricane, now a northeasterly, weren’t done with the United States. Heavy rains fell Tuesday from Philadelphia to Boston, but not enough to cause flooding.

Onshore winds from the storm cause minor ocean flooding at high tide from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Long Island, New York.

“If people had ignored the warnings, I think it could have been a lot worse,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said Tuesday.



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