Florida’s BONITA SPRINGS (AP) — More than 500,000 people statewide were without power on Tuesday as rescuers continued their hunt for those trapped inside houses engulfed in lingering floodwaters, nearly a week after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida and left a path of destruction that went into the Carolinas.
Since Ian made landfall on the Caribbean island on September 27, and in Florida a day later, at least 78 individuals have been reported deceased as a result of the hurricane, including 71 in Florida, four in North Carolina, and three in Cuba. More than 1,600 people have been rescued across the state of Florida, where search and rescue operations are still ongoing.
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Thanks to power being restored four days after the hurricane made landfall in her village in southwest Florida, Kelly Sedgwick in the town of Naples was only now Monday seeing news footage of the destruction Ian had wreaked. While waiting for their power to be restored, Catalina Mejilla and her grandchildren were trying to stay cool in the adjacent town of Bonita Springs with a rented generator.
When Ian slammed ashore in Florida with gusts of 150 mph (241 kph) and a strong storm surge, it knocked out electricity for 2.6 million consumers. Since then, personnel have been frantically repairing the infrastructure for electricity. According to state officials, clients whose power lines and other electric equipment are still intact should have power restored by Sunday.
On Monday evening, almost 520,000 houses and businesses in Florida were still without electricity, which is almost all of the residents of Rhode Island. It was a blessing for many who were having their power restored. Sedgwick expressed her relief at regaining power and thanked the staff for their dedication, saying, “They’ve done a great job.”
But it was a hard struggle for many who were still waiting. Mejilla said, “The heat is intolerable.” “We can’t produce food when the power is off, and we don’t have gas.” Her mother needed to travel to a friend’s place with electricity because she has problems breathing. I believe that those who are most in need should be given power.
Florida Power & Light’s chairman and CEO, Eric Silagy, acknowledged that customers are frustrated and stressed that technicians are doing everything they can to restore power as fast as possible. By the end of the day on Friday, the utility anticipates having power restored to 95% of its service areas, he said.
According to a utility spokeswoman, the remaining 5% consists mainly of situations when it is challenging to restore power, such as when a home is too badly damaged to receive electricity or when the region is still flooded. Customers whose homes or businesses were destroyed are not included in such outages.
Lee County Electric Cooperative, a significant electrical supplier in the severely affected coastal area, stated on Monday that it anticipates reaching the 95% threshold by the end of Saturday. The barrier islands in its service region, such as Sanibel, are not included in that number.
Power restoration is often a huge difficulty during major hurricanes because strong winds and flying debris can destroy important components of the electrical infrastructure, including transmission lines and power plants, or fall power lines that distribute electricity to houses.
Silagy noted that 40% of the utility’s distribution system is now underground and that during the past ten years, the firm has committed $4 billion to harden its infrastructure, including by burying more power lines.
The company is also utilising more technology, including sensors at substations that may warn them of flooding so they can turn off parts of the system before the water arrives and drones that can hover for hours to gain a better image of system damage.
In Ian, according to Silagy, he has seen instances where his investments have paid off. Concrete utility poles still stand, he noted, even on Fort Myers Beach where so many homes and businesses were destroyed. In addition, Silagy said that throughout Florida’s 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometres), the corporation didn’t lose a single transmission structure.
Rescue and recovery operations in Florida continued to be challenging in the meanwhile. The Peace River and its tributaries reached record high levels in DeSoto County, northeast of Fort Myers, making boats the only means of transportation for many of the 37,000 residents.
Roads and bridges to several barrier islands were destroyed by Ian. Approximately 130 trucks from the Florida Department of Transportation began construction on a temporary bridge to Pine Island, and by the end of the week, the project should be completed, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated during a press conference.
For nearby Sanibel, a similar temporary bridge is being designed, according to the governor, although it will take more time. The remnants of the storm, now a nor’easter, weren’t finished with the United States, though. Flooding rains were falling throughout the shores of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. The storm’s onshore winds added to the already overflowing Chesapeake Bay’s water level.
Although a change in wind direction prevented potentially catastrophic levels on Monday, Norfolk and Virginia Beach declared states of emergency, according to Cody Poche, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia.
Jill Biden, the first lady, and President Joe Biden are scheduled to go to Florida on Wednesday. On Monday, the president visited Puerto Rico, where all electricity had been lost due to Hurricane Fiona two weeks prior. He pledged to “rebuild everything.”
Meanwhile, many families have been using generators to keep goods like refrigerators cool and using outside barbecues to cook food in Florida communities that are still without electricity.
The generator under Paula Arbuckle’s carport in Bonita Springs was roaring as she sat in front of her one-story house. After Hurricane Irma struck this region in 2018 and left her community without power, she purchased a generator. Since Ian knocked out the lights, she hasn’t used them, but she has been sharing them with her neighbour across the street. Being without power is difficult, according to Arbuckle.
However, she added, “I’m not the only one. I have a generator, she declared as she pointed to her neighbour’s home. Over there, they have a little child. Consequently, the generator is shared by the two residences.
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