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Wilma Sweeps Across Florida

October 25, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: Floridians got to work today cleaning up after Wilma’s unwelcome visit, moving tree limbs, bull dozing mounds of sand, and wielding chainsaws.

In Key West, National Guardsmen delivered water and food to residents who weathered the storm.

Almost half of this mobile home park in East Naples was destroyed. It was just 20 miles from where the eye wall made landfall.

WOMAN: I got up and we was losing everything. The roof was coming off the house; the carport was gone. Power poles went down. It was terrible. We was watching people’s houses come right by.

KWAME HOLMAN: Neighborhoods near the Everglades were underwater. The six million people without electricity in Florida was two million more than those who lost power during Katrina. Utility companies warned it could be weeks before power is restored fully.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:

GOV. JEB BUSH: Power makes the world go around. Without power, small businesses go out of business and people lose their jobs. Without power, it’s difficult to get the schools open. So there are real challenges, and the first thing we do is pledge supported to Florida Power and Light to encourage their efforts.

KWAME HOLMAN: The power outages meant long lines at the few stores that were open for business. The east side of the state was hit hard, too; in Miami, destruction was widespread, from downtown buildings with their windows blown out to homes completely destroyed.

WOMAN: We didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect it. I don’t think anybody else did. We thought it was just going to go by.

KWAME HOLMAN: It was throw slow going on Miami streets today as cars navigated through standing floodwaters. Miami-Dade County was under a curfew. All three of south Florida’s major airports were closed to commercial traffic, and small planes were flipped upside down on the tarmac. At least 2,000 flights were canceled.

SPOKESMAN: That’s main lobby, and it’s a beautiful facility.

KWAME HOLMAN: One airport terminal was shredded. A chunk of the Jumbotron at the stadium where the Miami Dolphins play was missing. At the marina in Sunny Isle Beach near Miami, a steel dry dock intended to protect boats crumpled under Wilma’s high winds, destroying hundreds of boats. And in Coconut Grove, just south of Miami, boats were tossed on their side by the storm.

Wilma did move briskly away from the U.S. today, but it was expected to contribute to other weather systems and create stormy weather up and down the East Coast from Maryland’s eastern shore, which was smacked with relentless wind and surf, to Massachusetts, which was lashed with rain.