Sept. 13 (UPI) — South Florida on Wednesday continues its recovery after the assault of Hurricane Irma, as the death toll climbed to 22 and 4.4 million customers remained without power.
Florida Power & Light Co., which provides electricity to most of the state, said late Tuesday that power had been restored to 2.3 million customers.
The company said everyone on Florida’s Atlantic coast should see a return to power by Sunday, with customers on the harder-hit Gulf Coast should expect full power to return by Sept. 22.
While much of South Florida remains without power, the outdoor temperature has climbed to 90 degrees.
Bridges in the Florida Keys, where initial FEMA estimates indicated that 90 percent of structures were destroyed or damaged, were inspected Tuesday and declared safe for vehicles, indicating that residents who evacuated will soon be permitted to return.
FP&L said it might be one of the largest power restorations in U.S. history.
Two 300-foot-long stretches of road, washed out by the Category 4 hurricane, are hurriedly being replaced. The Upper Keys, including the islands of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, were opened early Tuesday — but water, power, sewer, cellphone and medical services remain limited. The Keys’ three hospitals remain closed.
Residents of Miami Beach also returned on Tuesday. Iconic Ocean Drive was littered with downed trees and sand from the storm surge. Miami International Airport also reopened, with a limited schedule.
Storm-related fatalities reported across the state so far include victims of vehicle accidents, an electrocution, a tree that struck a man sleeping in his home, a passenger in a vehicle struck by a tree and carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of generators.
At least 37 others died as the hurricane moved through the Caribbean, and two deaths were reported in South Carolina and two in Georgia as the storm diminished but prompted storm surges along the Atlantic coast.
It remains unclear when schools in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, which includes Fort Lauderdale, will reopen. Aberlto Carvalho, Miami-Dade school superintendent, said all 250 buildings in the school system sustained some damage, but “no catastrophic impact” was observed at any site. Over half of Broward County schools still lack power, school superintendent Robert Runcie said Tuesday.