Scenes of wreckage mix with signs of hope – Orange County Register

By JASON DEAREN and JENNIFER KAY

LOWER MATECUMBE KEY, Fla. — Parts of Florida inched back toward normalcy on Wednesday with workers restoring power, clearing roads and replenishing gas supplies, even as scenes of destruction emerged from southernmost islands and new dangers emerged for residents without electricity.

Residents drifted back from shelters and out-of-state hotels to see Hurricane Irma’s scattershot destruction. Positive signs included some curfews being lifted, flights resuming and grocery stores reopening. But flooded streets remained, and the count of damaged and totaled homes ticked upward.

“Everything’s gone,” said Jen Gilreath, a 33-year-old bartender whose Jacksonville home filled with knee-high floodwaters.

While people around the state waited for power to be restored, a new hazard developed: carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. Authorities said that five people died and more than a dozen were treated for breathing fumes from the temporary power sources in separate instances in the Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach areas.

One Miami-area apartment building was evacuated after authorities determined a lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants, while officers arrived at another retirement community to help people stranded on upper floors without access to working elevators. Elsewhere, a South Florida townhouse that weathered the storm was gutted by fire when power was restored, causing the stove to ignite items left on the cooktop.

As crews labored to repair the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida’s mainland returned to get their first look at the devastation two days after Irma roared in with 130 mph winds.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said preliminary estimates suggested that 25 percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage.

“Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted,” he said.

The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 13 with the carbon monoxide deaths, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but everybody’s going to come together,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “We’re going to get this state rebuilt.”

Glimpses of Irma’s economic toll were emerging, with Florida saying 31 state agencies had already amassed nearly $250 million in preparation and…

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