Utahns lending a hand, B1.Weary hurricane victims stubbornly holed up in their shattered homes Friday and braced for another dose of a tropical downpour, and more federal troops arrived to help.
In this hard-hit community, 75 percent to 80 percent of the homes and businesses were declared unsafe and officials say extensive renovation or demolition is necessary.Residents who remain in their damaged homes are being allowed to stay, but the city will not connect electricity until the buildings are repaired, said Ann Marie Gothard, a municipal spokeswoman.
"They're not trying to drag people out of their homes," she said. "It's just a matter of `Do you want to live in the dark?' "
Streets were lined with 8-foot-tall piles of dead branches, logs and other debris from the Aug. 24 storm. Palm trees stood with fronds dangling. A military truck drove through the neighborhood, distributing free ice and soft drinks.
Residents prepared for more rain this weekend. The National Weather Service predicted that a tropical wave - a spinning storm system of rain and thunderstorms - would drench parts of south Florida, a normal condition this time of the year.
"I guess I'm going to be running back and forth from one side of the house to the other with pails and mops," said Doug Pracher, who was carrying logs from his side yard to a mound by the street.
Hurricane Andrew ripped away part of the roof over his kitchen and bathroom, but Pracher said he will stay put.
So will Mitch Underwood, 20, who was putting branches in a gas-powered wood chipper. The house he shares with his parents lost part of its roof and he has been eating at a tent city.
"We can't go," he said. "You have to understand that when it's all you've got and you've been there so long that you can't leave it."
Tent cities were virtually empty Friday as many people were out repairing their homes. More than 300 tents have been set up, and officials say about 500 people used them Thursday night.
More than 1,000 military personnel arrived Friday, bringing to 17,000 the number of federal troops. Within days, that number is expected to increase to about 27,600. In addition, 6,300 members of the Florida National Guard have been deployed.
Military officials said one serviceman, Airman 1st Class Norman Burns of Patrick Air Force Base, was severely burned Wednesday when a stove exploded in a tent at Homestead Air Force Base. He was reported in stable condition Friday at a burn center in Jacksonville.
The Goodyear blimp Stars and Stripes was to begin flying over the hurricane area flashing color-coded messages on where to seek help: red for medical care, white for food and supplies, and blue for information and aid.
The massive cleanup and recovery continued on other fronts. Dade County officials said garbage pickup is returning to normal and no contamination has been found in the water system. A boil-water order that still exists in some areas is expected to be lifted Saturday.
The American Red Cross said preliminary damage estimates show the hurricane damaged or destroyed 97,000 homes in Florida and 14,000 in Louisiana. The agency estimates its relief costs will exceed $65 million.
The Army Corp of Engineers said it will spend $100 million or more just to remove garbage or debris in the hurricane-ravaged area.