Dangers Linger As Florida Recovery Picks Up Momentum

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 didn’t have power. North Carolina reported its first Irma-related death on Friday after a man died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and two more people died in Florida from the dangerous fumes, including a woman in Palm Beach County.

Near Miami, a family of four was treated for exposure to the fumes from a generator outside of their apartment.

At least 36 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.

Utility workers check the cables as they work to reestablish power in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Key West, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Alan Diaz.

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.