Dangers linger as Florida recovery picks up momentum
By JENNIFER KAY and TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — Nearly a week after Hurricane Irma walloped Florida, the recovery mission picked up momentum as more people had electricity and schools made plans to reopen.
Still, the dangers lingered, mostly in the form of noxious gas from generators serving those who still don’t have power. In Palm Beach County, carbon monoxide from a generator seeped into a home, killing a woman and leaving three men in critical condition. Near Miami, a family of four was treated Friday for exposure to the fumes from a generator outside of their apartment.
At least 34 people have died in the U.S. under Irma-related circumstances, the vast majority in Florida. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.
Meanwhile, the state made urgent efforts to protect its vulnerable elderly residents. Eight people died at a nursing home when the hurricane knocked out power and the facility lost air conditioning. The deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were believed to be heat-related.
Several other nursing homes were evacuated because of a lack of power or air conditioning, and workers scrambled to keep patients cool with emergency stocks of ice and Popsicles.
Officials said about 1.9 million homes and businesses were without power, including 64 nursing homes.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday night that he directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate the Hollywood Hills center as a provider for Medicaid, which helps low-income people receive health care.
Older people can be more susceptible to heat because their bodies do not adjust to temperatures as well as younger people. They don’t sweat as much and they are more likely to take medication that affects body temperature.
“The thing that hits them first is dehydration and then their temperature increases and then respiratory issues kick in,” Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich said.
Schools in some areas made plans to welcome back students. In the hard-hit southwestern part of the state, Lee County schools Superintendent Greg Adkins announced classes will begin Sept. 25. Three of the district’s buildings needed extensive roof repair.
Reynolds reported from Aventura. Also contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Naples; Tim Reynolds in Aventura; Brendan Farrington, Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy in Tallahassee; Adriana Gomez Licon in Homestead; Michael Melia in Hartford Connecticut and Freida Frisaro in Miami.