Parts of Florida inched back toward normal with workers restoring power, clearing roads and replenishing gas supplies, even as teams scoured the state’s southernmost islands and authorities warned of mass devastation.
Residents drifted back from shelters and far-away havens Tuesday to see Hurricane Irma’s scattershot destruction. Flooded streets remained, and the count of damaged and totaled homes ticked upward even as some curfews were lifted, flights resumed and amusement park rides again twirled.
“Everything’s gone,” said Jen Gilreath, a 33-year-old bartender whose Jacksonville home filled with knee-high floodwaters.
As crews labored to repair the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida’s mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation two days after Irma roared in with 130 mph (209 kph) winds.
Before Hurricane Irma , gas stations ran out of fuel as frightened Floridians stocked up on petrol. After the storm, fuel shortages will shift from neighborhood stations to a new venue — gas pumps along Interstate 95, Interstate 75 and Florida’s Turnpike.
Irma sparked the largest evacuation in state history, and now those who fled are returning en masse.
“We had almost 6 million people forced to evacuate their homes before Irma, which means we’ll have 6 million people coming back into the state in the coming days,” said James Miller of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.
Danika Kubiak is no stranger to the lemonade business. When her neighbor’s dog ate her retainer last year, Danika set up on their block. She asked for donations. She raised $15. Anything to lower that orthodonture bill, right?
So when the freckled-nose 7-year-old woke up on Tuesday and realized some of her neighbors still didn’t have power, she went up and down 14th Avenue NE, knocking on doors. “Would you like to do a lemonade stand?” she asked Meara Hill, still in her pajamas. The 8-year-old said sure, and they added coffee and power strips to the mix.
“I thought this might help,” said Danika, standing outside their two-story house with plywood still on the windows.
“I’m really thirsty!” yelled a woman slowing her Toyota in the street.
“Lemonade or coffee?” Danika shouted back, then asked if she’d like ice.
Helping her neighbors was as much a help to Danika, 36 hours after Irma made her bedroom window rattle. She had never experienced a hurricane, living in the Old Northeast all her life. She had tried to stay busy in the hours leading up to the storm, walking to the bay to see where the water had receded. She watched so much Berenstain Bears that her mother memorized the theme song.