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'Basically every house' in Florida Keys affected as some residents allowed back

Evan Halper and Laura King, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Residents of the hurricane-hammered Florida Keys began returning home Tuesday to a primitive, pared-down version of their former lives, with most lacking basic necessities such as electricity, water, sanitation systems or cellphone service.

The woes spawned by former Hurricane Irma stretched from the Keys, off Florida's southern tip, to the state's far north, where the city of Jacksonville was cleaning up after its heaviest flooding in decades and coping with a continuing high-water threat.

The Jacksonville sheriff's office said more than 350 people had been plucked to safety from floodwaters, and warned people to take heed of any further evacuation orders.

"There are so many areas you'd never have thought would have flooded, that flooded," said Gov. Rick Scott, who visited Jacksonville on Tuesday. "Thank God everybody helped everybody here."

Across the state, millions struggled to cope with power outages, fuel shortages and a massive cleanup that was still in its earliest stages. President Donald Trump planned to visit the hurricane zone Thursday, the White House said without disclosing an itinerary.

Despite causing such widespread damage, Irma was blamed for relatively few fatalities on the U.S. mainland, after killing at least 36 people on its rampage through the eastern Caribbean last week.

There have been seven storm-related deaths in Florida, four in South Carolina and two in Georgia, according to The Associated Press, but officials have questioned whether some of those fatalities can be directly attributed to Irma.

Florida's storm-imposed isolation was easing. Although gasoline was still hard to come by in much of the state, frustrating motorists, Miami International Airport reported that it was gradually resuming service Tuesday but advised people to check with airlines to make sure their flights were actually scheduled.

The storm's lingering winds were snarling air traffic as far away as Atlanta, where hundreds of flights were canceled Tuesday at Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the world's busiest in terms of passenger traffic, where gusts up to 64 mph were reported.

In Florida, the port of Tampa reopened Tuesday afternoon to big ships, which will allow fuel tankers to make much-needed deliveries.


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