WASHINGTON – Residents in the Southeastern United States affected by Hurricane Irma are trying to return to some normalcy but are challenged by power outages and gas shortages.
Irma is being blamed for 14 deaths in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Almost 7 million customers in five Southeastern states are without power.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates almost 75 percent of customers in Florida have no electricity. It will take days and in some spots weeks for power to be restored in the state, which suffered a wide path of destruction from Hurricane Irma over the weekend.
Power is expected to be restored by Sunday on the East Coast, Florida Power & Light spokesperson Rob Gould said Tuesday afternoon. But the West Coast will take longer; he said power might not be fully restored until Sept. 22.
Hospitals and nursing homes are the top priority, according to Gov. Rick Scott.
Many parts of Florida are experiencing gasoline shortages, with some lines at stations as long as half a mile long. Stations without electricity cannot pump gas.
Most airports in Florida have reopened, including Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Tampa, Sarasota and Jacksonville. Miami’s airport is 35 percent operational and expects to be back to 100 percent by Friday. Travelers should expect numerous delays and they are urged to check with airlines before heading to the airport. More than 16,000 flights were canceled because of Irma.
FEMA estimates that one-quarter of all homes in the Keys were destroyed and two-thirds sustained major damage. Most mobile homes in the Keys were destroyed. The Lower Keys were hit particularly hard by Irma’s eye wall, although Key West was spared a direct hit.
Traffic was backed up for miles on Tuesday as residents and homeowners were allowed to return to certain parts of the Keys. Drivers must provide proof of residency or business ownership. People who are returning will have to rough it. Most areas of the Keys have no electricity, no running water or cellphone service, and most gas stations are closed.
Meanwhile, Naples Mayor Bill Barnett said he estimates recovery in his West-Coast city will cost $100 million.
Irma is now a tropical depression, and is bringing rain and winds through parts of Alabama on Tuesday. The storm is expected to move into Tennessee and Kentucky later this week.