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FL relief continues

Damage assessments continued Wednesday throughout much of south Florida.


Damage assessments continued Wednesday throughout much of south Florida. Eight people are now confirmed dead after Hurricane Wilma tore through Florida Monday.

The Category 3 storm brought 125-mph winds and heavy rains to much of the state, downing trees and flooding many communities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) already declared the counties of Collier, Lee, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach eligible for individual assistance.

Many Florida residents waited in long lines Tuesday to receive supplies like water, ice and food. In Ft. Lauderdale, volunteers from Neighbors 4 Neighbors, Convoy of Hope and Project Teamwork set up two supply distribution sites for residents. Teams from The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are also out in force to feed residents.

State officials report no shortage of gas yet, but that the power outages have made getting the gas a challenge. Several hazardous materials teams have been deployed to stabilize possible environmental hazards in the affected areas.

The Florida State Emergency Response Team (SERT) is also reporting some 316 health care facilities were impacted by Wilma, with some now on generator power. Disaster medical assistance teams were dispatched to critical facilities.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power. Florida Power and Light say that many counties along the southwest coast will have power restored today, but that others along the east and southeast coast may be waiting for another two weeks. The severity of the damage is worse in those areas.

SERT reports that the agricultural impact of Wilma was serious as well, damaging many avocado and other winter crops.

Members of the Florida chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (FLVOAD) are still assessing damages in the communities they serve.

Serious damage is reported in the southeastern county of Broward. A release from Florida's State Emergency Response Team (SERT) states that more than 800 mobile homes there have been seriously impacted or destroyed by Wilma. Residents there are reporting severe roof damage and flooding as well.

The storm surge hit 12 feet in Everglades City on the southwest coast. The city's elevation is zero, yet many of the houses are at least on stilts. FLVOAD members say they are waiting to hear more about the possible damage there.

Residents of the Florida Keys were cleaning up as well. Major bridges and roads were damaged along the string of islands.

Other members of FLVOAD are reporting that the damage from Wilma was not as severe as many expected in the areas devastated by Hurricane Charley last year. In Ft. Myers, the storm surge was not nearly as high as forecasters predicted. The Naples area is also reporting downed trees and power lines, but no major structural damage as of yet. One Charlotte County official said there appears to be no major damage there yet, either.

Authorities reported four tornado touchdowns in Brevard County on the central east coast of the state. No injuries and little damage was reported, however.

Some flooding was reported in Osceola and Orange counties, yet the counties had prepared by lowering the water level in the levees by nine feet before the storm. Damage assessments are continuing there.

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