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Hurricane Katrina

South Florida residents line up for assistance

As cleanup work continues, weary storm victims wait in long lines for food, ice and water.

Associated Press
Published August 28, 2005

DAVIE - Hungry, thirsty and sweaty South Floridians in the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina waited for hours in lines that sometimes stretched for miles to get food, ice and water Saturday, two days after the storm knocked out power and flooded streets and homes.

As cities including New Orleans prepared for the onslaught of a strengthening Katrina, residents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were recovering after the hurricane hit Thursday with 80-mph top sustained winds.

"Everything is gone," said Jose Florian, 55, looking at what remained of his mobile home in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Davie. His roof was sitting in his neighbors' yards. "The floor is caving in," he said.

Flooding was a concern with parts of Homestead, Cutler Ridge and Goulds still underwater, but it was unclear how many homes were damaged. Residents plowed through flooded streets without traffic lights, searching for open grocery stores or emergency aid.

In Broward County, about 1,500 people were still displaced from their homes because of severe wind damage.

Initial insured damage estimates were in the relatively low range of $600-million to $2-billion. About 733,800 homes and businesses were without power, down from a peak of 1.45-million, as temperatures soared into the 90s.

At aid distribution centers throughout the area, thousands of vehicles lined up to get free ice, water and food. Some people parked and shut off their engines to save gas in the slow-moving lines. While it appeared to go smoothly, there were some obstacles.

"It's really annoying when you have (people) butting in line when everyone's waiting for an hour and a half," Marina Barturen, 52, said at the Miami Metrozoo center. She hoped to get ice to keep her mother's osteoporosis shots cold, or else they would go bad.

The storm scared off some tourists.

"If this is a weak one, I don't want to be hit with what you guys call a strong hurricane," said Tom Metzler, 21, who was visiting a cousin in Marathon during the storm and planned to drive home today to New Jersey.

Power crews focused on restoring electricity to hospitals and other high-need places. Florida Power & Light expected to have 90 percent of its customers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties restored by Tuesday, with the rest by Friday.

The Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged had no power, leaving about 500 residents without air conditioning. Generators powered emergency equipment like ventilators, but didn't produce enough for other devices.

"What we need is some cool air and lights," said resident Dorothy Fleischer.

State officials said millions of gallons of gas were at a Fort Lauderdale port, prepared to head to areas that had shortages. Some gas stations couldn't open because they didn't have power, although others sold everything they had. Some motorists in hard-hit areas waited for several hours to gas up.

Other places out of fuel turned away dozens of motorists. "They're very calm. They just say, "thank you' and they're going to try and find it somewhere else," said Lakia McCuller, a clerk at a closed station in Pinecrest south of downtown Miami.

The state received many complaints about price gouging at the pump. In three days, 238 reports of price gouging were called in to the state's hot line and about 95 percent of those were regarding gas prices, officials said.

In South Florida's farming areas, Katrina damaged fruit trees, uprooted plants and thrashed shade houses. Damage estimates won't be available for several days. The nursery business is the largest segment of Florida's agriculture industry, and Miami-Dade's $400-million in operations make it the top nursery county.

[Last modified August 28, 2005, 01:15:11]

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