Governor Joins Crews Cleaning Up After Kate
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Hoping to contribute a little elbow grease and a lot of encouragement, Gov. Bob Graham donned a hard hat and joined city crews working to restore power to Florida’s hurricane-racked capital city.
″It might be after Thanksgiving for power to be restored to everyone. As of last night, only 25 percent had power in Tallahassee,″ Graham said Sunday. ″The first objective was cleaning main thoroughfares; now we’re working on residential areas.″
Crews were working double shifts, clearing debris strewn by Hurricane Kate, including trees blocking roads and resting on power lines in the densely wooded city, officials said.
″This town looks like a battlefield,″ said real estate broker Don Wesolowski. But ″the real story is the way the whole town is pulling together to help each other.″
Meanwhile, residents continued lining up for hours to buy food, bottled water and ice. Traffic was snarled as cars maneuvered without the guidance of stoplights. In two counties, school was canceled for the coming week.
A state of emergency remained in effect in 19 Florida counties hard hit by Kate, the first hurricane in 50 years to make landfall on the continental United States in November.
″Some of the worst damage was in Apalachicola, Eastpoint and Port St. Joe, and these are areas where the people had already been victimized by Hurricane Elena,″ said Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for Graham.
State disaster assessment teams today were trying to compile damage estimates to see whether Panhandle residents qualify for federal aid.
Residents of Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties returned home Saturday to homes evacuated before Kate thundered ashore Thursday night. They were the last of about 100,000 people in emergency shelters.
September’s Hurricane Elena churned up the Apalachicola Bay, smothering shellfish on which the area’s economy relied. The state spent about $150,000 to save the $6.5 million oyster crop, which provides up about 10 percent of the nation’s supply.
Officials say they fear Kate buried the infant oyster crop. Divers will assess damage within two weeks.
″The last storm put me out of oystering and this one will probably put me out of shrimping,″ said Adrian James, 44, of Apalachicola.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, electricity has been restored to all Georgia Power customers who lost service during Kate’s passage through the southern part of the state, company spokesman John Varner said.