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Irma recovery in full swing in South Florida, but many still desperate for power

Andres Viglucci and Daniel Chang, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- Airports and causeways reopened. Curfews were lifted or shortened. Fuel shipments began to flow again into Port Everglades by the millions of gallons. Versailles in Miami's Little Havana was back to serving its own kind of fuel, cafecitos, out of its famous window.

And electrical service was steadily restored to critical facilities, homes and businesses, though surely not fast enough for the hundreds of thousands of power-less, sweltering South Floridians growing impatient for a spot of cool air or an icy drink as the temperature hit 90.

Operation return-to-normal was in full swing across Miami-Dade and Broward counties Tuesday, the second day after Hurricane Irma pounded the region with hours of sustained tropical-storm winds and hurricane-strength gusts that knocked out power, knocked down trees and knocked daily life sideways for millions.

The good news is that it's all mostly temporary. Damage from Irma, though widespread, was not in most instances severe, assessments still underway suggest.

The not-so-good: It's going to be a while, maybe quite a bit, before every street is cleared, every home has juice, every person is housed and air-conditioned, and the kids are back in school.

Miami-Dade officials said that David Boatswain, 65, of Miami died apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running inside his home. The state medical examiner also confirmed one storm-related death in Broward without providing details. That's in addition to 11 other fatalities across Florida, most occurring in accidents during preparations for Irma or in its aftermath.

 

There was also unwelcome news for neighbors of a condo tower under construction in Miami's Edgewater neighborhood, where a crane crumpled during the storm. City officials ordered two residential buildings across the street from the Gran Paraiso construction site evacuated because the crane could not be secured.

In addition, about 50 residents of a senior citizens tower in Miami's Civic Center neighborhood that was badly damaged by Irma were being taken Tuesday evening to a shelter.

The picture remained grim to the south in the Florida Keys, hit by Irma's full Category 4 brunt. Evacuees were allowed back but only into the Upper Keys. Gauging the full scope of damage was still a work in progress, but the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said "initial estimates" were that a quarter of all Keys houses were "destroyed" and 65 percent suffered some damage.

Caution and patience were the order of the day, government officials told South Floridians, even as they urged businesses that could to reopen, and lifted or trimmed back curfews to ease the way back to normalcy. Miami-Dade, Miami and Key Biscayne canceled curfews, while Miami Beach, Doral and Coral Gables shortened theirs to start only at late night.

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