By Mitch Holt, Opinion Editor
The third major hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast this year attacked Florida’s southern coast Monday, damaging homes throughout the state and leaving Floridians without basic necessities such as food, clothing, hot water and electricity.
More than six million residents of the area in and around the Everglades were affected, while more than three million homes and businesses lost power as Wilma hit land at 6:30 a.m. The storm had 145 mph winds.
After it hit land, the storm flew across Florida as a Category 2, damaging homes, businesses and roads as far south as Key West. The Miami airport, among 18 others, was closed during the storm, said R. David Paulison, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in a CNN interview.
According to reports, Florida Power and Light said it could be as long as a month before all in the state have power restored in their homes and businesses.
Financially, Hurricane Wilma is the third most devastating hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast, trailing Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in September, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Although the damage isn’t as extensive as Hurricane Katrina’s, Wilma left more than five times the number of people without power.
President Bush said in a press conference that Florida Power and Light is doing its best to recruit out of state help and pick up the mess in a timely fashion, but it is expected to take quite a while.
To help with the effort, Miami-Dade relief groups will open 11 distribution centers by Tuesday afternoon to help supply people with the essentials during this time of need.
“We’re getting water back up this morning,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle said in a city press release Tuesday morning. “The power restoration is our biggest concern, as we get water and other services back up.”