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Hurricane Irma aftermath: Sweltering nursing homes draw pleas for help to keep residents cool

When Mark Sandy saw a Facebook post on Wednesday about a Lake Worth, Florida, nursing home that was without power, he went to check on a family friend who was living there. “When we showed up, the fire department was there with trucks waiting to take people away,” he said.

He walked inside and saw employees at Signature HealthCare putting cold compresses on the foreheads of elderly patients, wheelchairs lined up down the hall and a man lying on a mattress on the floor.

“It was extremely hot and humid. It was rough to see elderly people in those conditions,” Sandy said. “The staff was working their butts off to make them comfortable. They deserve credit. The problem is they didn’t have sufficient equipment.”

>> 8 dead after Florida nursing home left without power by Irma

The evacuation started, Sandy said, only after a paramedic had arrived on a medical call. “When he saw the deplorable conditions, he called for backup.”

Earlier in the day, eight people died at a Broward County nursing home in Hollywood. “I realize now after seeing what I saw (in Lake Worth) how that could happen,” Sandy said.

It wasn’t the only nursing home in Palm Beach County where residents sweltered in heat because of power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall Sunday.

>> Post-Hurricane Irma destruction: 10 tips for right after storm passes

Jennifer Greco did a welfare check Wednesday on a friend’s grandmother and said she was horrified to see elderly residents sweltering in the lobby of a Jupiter nursing home that had been without electricity since Saturday.

“Nobody looked like they were suffering, nobody called out to me. They were just sitting there with the look in their eyes like, ‘I’m just miserable,’’’ Greco said after visiting Courtyards Garden nursing home on Indian Creek Parkway.

So Greco posted on Facebook an “urgent need” for battery-operated fans at the facility. She even went to CVS and bought the last fan in the store.

“You can’t cool 25 people in a room with a tower fan, especially if they’re in a wheelchair or on the other side of the room,’’ she said. “I’m just trying to find people, if they have fans they’re not using, to bring it there.’’

>> Hurricane Irma damage: 4 tips for dealing with insurance claims

A Courtyards Garden employee who wouldn’t give her name told a reporter that the 120-bed facility has one air-conditioned room powered by a generator that residents can use. The employee said none of the residents is in peril.

“We are well-equipped with food, water and everything in between. The only thing we need is air,’’ she said, adding that some family members have picked up loved ones since the storm passed.

Of the more than 300 nursing homes in the county, seven have reported problems due to a lack of power, including generators that malfunctioned, said Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department.

>> 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from flood water

While that may sound like a small percentage, it’s still unacceptable when considering the frailty of the residents, O’Connor said. But he said the seven facilities lacking electricity have either gotten generators or transferred patients to other facilities.

O’Connor said the county Wednesday was prepared to dispatch ambulances to pick up clients from nursing homes and take them to the county-run special-needs shelter at the South Florida Fairgrounds, but no request was made.

“We don’t anticipate the kind of situation that unfolded in Hollywood, but you can never say never,’’ he said.

>> Irma recovery: How to apply for financial help

Janice Dougherty, 84, of the Christian Manor senior living apartments in West Palm Beach, said the community on Executive Center Drive was still without power Wednesday night and the property’s management didn’t use generators on the site.

“It’s about 95 degrees in here,’’ said Dougherty, who said she has ovarian cancer.

On The Palm Beach Post’s Hurricane Irma Facebook page, Cindy R. Morrone-DiVincent, who said she runs a nursing home in Stuart, claimed that a West Palm Beach facility had no air conditioning and temperatures over 90 degrees. A call to the facility was not immediately returned.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: What to do during, after a power outage

There were other issues with nursing homes not related to a lack of electricity.

As Hurricane Irma roared through South Florida, a frantic woman from California who was trying to check on her elderly mother called Palm Beach County’s Emergency Operations Center because no one was answering the phone at her mother’s nursing home in Lantana.

Turned out her mother was safe at a shelter at Park Vista High School. She’d been dropped off there with 27 other elderly residents, many of them in wheelchairs and walkers, by The Carlisle Palm Beach.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

But no staff from the Carlisle stayed with their clients at the shelter, leaving many retirees, some in their 90s and 100s, at the mercy of county and School District employees who for the first time were in charge of supervising hurricane shelters, a job previously done by the American Red Cross.

When The Post contacted The Carlisle seeking comment about the concerns, a person at the switchboard passed the call to a man who hung up after saying: “We have no one at the shelters right now. Everyone’s been taken care of. Thank you.’’

At MorseLife Health System’s facility in West Palm Beach, Chief Executive Officer Keith Myers said all nursing homes are supposed to do monthly checks on equipment, including generators, to make sure they’re working properly.

>> Read more trending news

“They should’ve tested them and had a plan. It was their responsibility,’’ he said.

Myers said Morselife, on Haverhill Road just south of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, would’ve taken in residents from other nursing homes.

“We plan and we take it very seriously,’’ he said. “When you have even one life in your hands, you need to make sure you have all your systems in place.’’

– Palm Beach Post staff writer Julius Whigham II contributed to this story.

Hurricane Irma: New Florida Keys photos show paradise destroyed

You can smell Hurricane Irma’s leftovers before you see them in the Florida Keys.

The powerful storm surge that roared over the Middle Keys left the main highway covered in seaweed, tiny crabs, shrimp and fish, now decomposing in plowed mounds by the side of U.S. 1.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: PHOTOS: Paradise lost in Florida Keys

A roadblock at Florida City is preventing anyone but residents from traveling down the single road in and out of the string of tiny islands. But even residents can only go as far as Islamorada until the road is cleared and the Lower Keys bridges are inspected.

Thirty percent of the Upper Keys lacks power, emergency management authorities said after a meeting Tuesday night.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

In the Lower Keys, there is no power at all.

In Key Largo, a few businesses have re-opened. A Winn Dixie. A liquor store. Here and there, a restaurant.

Further down in Islamorada, the damage is more apparent.

>> Hurricane Irma aftermath: Don't have internet, cable or cell service? Here's why

Broken power poles dangle from power lines. By the sides of the road, gumbo limbo trees, denuded of leaves, lie broken and tangled with shredded aluminum, the bimini tops of boats and crab pots meant to catch the upcoming season’s stone crabs.

In spots where U.S. 1 runs close to the ocean, storm surge covered the road with sand, now scraped intro roadside drifts, like the aftermath of a snow storm.

In Lower Matecumbe Key, the ocean stormed over the road to Sandy Cove on the Gulf side, smashing the foundation of a three-story apartment building, which then pancaked down on itself, ending up a single story of cracked concrete with the sea still lapping at its destruction. Under it all, the wheels of a car can be seen in what had been the building’s garage.

>> Read more trending news

At Seabreeze Mobile Home Park on Islamorada’s Atlantic side, Billy Quinn stopped his bike on the blue concrete pad where his trailer had stood before Irma rearranged the park’s geography.

“That’s it over there,” said Quinn, a carpenter, who said his family had owned the trailer for 56 years. “The wind and water moved it about 15 feet away.”

He pointed to a rubber hose buried in coral rock pebbles. “That’s my pressure cleaner,” he said, “and my refrigerator is over there and one of my boat’s engines is half in the water.”

Quinn wants FEMA to help clean up the park quickly, so he and the other residents can start cleaning up the Keys.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: How to apply for FEMA help

The park, once a retiree paradise, was one of only a few places low-income workers could afford in the Keys’ pricey rental market.

“This is low income, workforce housing,” Quinn said. “We’re waitresses, cooks, construction workers. We’re the ones that do the work for the tourists.”

On the other side of the park, Sharon Noeller, a waitress at the Lorelei restaurant, a Keys landmark, started to cry, thinking of the three bins of her daughter’s photos still inside her wrecked trailer.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

“This was our little oasis,” she said as her boyfriend, Kevin Collina, salvaged an unbroken glass table top from a pile of storm-tossed belongings. Their master bedroom was down what had been their road.

“We had a little pool and an outdoor shower right on the ocean,” she said.

“Now there’s no place left to go. No place we can afford, anyway.”

Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey brings job opportunities at FEMA to Texans

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is hiring Texan workers to help with the recovery process after Hurricane Harvey.

>> Read more trending news

The new hires will assist teams of local, state and federal workers, along with volunteers from charities and community groups already on the ground, TIME reported.

The agency will work alongside the Texas Workforce Commission to place qualified workers where they can offer the most aid. Each position pays between $14 and $34 per hour.

The positions available through the FEMA program include:

  • Administrative support assistant
  • Civil engineer
  • Communications specialist
  • Construction cost estimator
  • Courier
  • Crisis counselor
  • Customer service specialist
  • Environmental specialist
  • Floodplain management specialist
  • Graphics specialist
  • Hazard mitigation outreach specialist
  • Historic preservation specialist
  • Registered nurse
  • Sign language interpreter
  • Voluntary agency liaison

RELATED: FEMA to states: plan for climate change or lose federal aid

In a press statement announcing the program, FEMA officials said that the agency “gains valuable community insights, provides jobs and puts Texans to work helping Texans.”

One position that demonstrates that mission is the customer service specialist, who will “serve as the primary point of contact for persons inquiring about disaster assistance,” according to the FEMA website.

The duties for this position will also include “assisting disaster victims, processing claim requests for disaster assistance, and providing information regarding available programs to individuals applying for disaster assistance.”

The agency is also opening up positions in its “reservist” program. The “temporary, on-call and intermittent” positions include duties ranging from hazard mitigation and remediation to historic preservation to financial management.

Interested applicants can submit their resumes and applications through the Texas Workforce Commission website or through the FEMA website.

The agency will be announcing new job postings as they become available.

Hurricane Irma: What not to do while your electrical power is out

It’s a sad side story to nearly every storm event, including Hurricane Irma. People are hurt, or even die, either before or after the storm in incidents that are indirectly related. Irma added to the grim legacy.

>> Read more trending news

In Orlando, a family of three died of carbon monoxide poisoning; authorities suspect they ran a generator inside their home.

And in northern Broward County, a couple decided to swim in the condo pool. Back at their unit, the power finally came back on, and an appliance that apparently had not been powered down started a fire.

And that doesn’t include the many cuts, bruises and intestinal crises that will torment residents if they haven’t already.

Some post-Irma do’s and don’ts:

Never operate a generator or barbecue grill inside the home. Carbon monoxide is deadly, odorless, colorless and can kill in minutes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Do not use generators or grills even in open garages or porches unless they are at least 20 feet from the home.

Never connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Don’t plug a gasoline-powered generator into your household AC circuits. The electricity will travel outside your house to the downed power line. You could electrocute yourself or start a fire. Also, utility workers, believing the line is dead, could be electrocuted. Plug appliances directly into the generator.

Be careful with gasoline cans and propane tanks. There’s a danger of both fumes and possible fire and explosion. Don’t pour unwanted gasoline down a storm drain. Don’t leave cans at a curb; they won’t be picked up. Instead, take to a processing facility.

Stay away from downed power lines and poles. The line might still be electrified. And if a pole has been pulled down, the electrical line might have been pulled frighteningly taut; cutting up that pole could cause a fatal reaction.

Check all the electrical items in your home. Some might have been turned on when power was lost, and when power is restored, you’ll get a surge that could damage electronics.

If you’re not familiar with power tools, especially chainsaws, hire a professional rather than risking your life or, literally, your limb.

Don’t walk barefoot. The ground can be minefields of broken glass, wood shards and boards with nails still in them, sharp points facing up.

Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and more to play Harvey benefit concert in Texas

Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Bridges, Lyle Lovett and Edie Brickell & New Bohemians are heading up “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas: A Benefit Concert for Hurricane Harvey Relief,” an all-star event and telethon set for Sept. 22 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

>> Read more trending news

Tickets to the four-hour concert, which runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will air live on TEGNA stations, go on sale at 3 p.m. CDT Wednesday via RebuildTX.org for $30 to $199.

Billed as “the largest live concert benefit in Texas” for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, the event follows Tuesday night’s “Hand in Hand” national telethon event that included performances by George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and others.

Others scheduled to appear at the Erwin Center event include Matthew McConaughey, Dan Rather, Renee Zellweger, Luke Wilson, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo. Additional musical performers include Ryan Bingham, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and the Mexican pop duo Ha*Ash.

The concert will feature “exclusive performances and rare collaborations,” according to a press release announcing the event. Asleep at the Wheel will be the house band, and Charlie Sexton will serve as music director.

Proceeds will benefit the Rebuild Texas Fund, created by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in collaboration with the OneStar Foundation. According to the Rebuild Texas website, the fund “will support community partners in four focus areas — health and housing; schools and child care; workforce and transportation; and capital for rebuilding small businesses.” The concert is part of the Dell Foundation’s effort to raise $100 million toward hurricane recovery efforts.

“This fund was created to help rebuild all of the communities, big and small, that have been devastated by Hurricane Harvey,” Houston native Michael Dell said in the event’s press release. “We will be rebuilding for years to come.” His wife, native Texan Susan Dell, added, “For us, this is personal.”

The telecast will air without commercials. In addition, an hour of the event will stream internationally on YouTube.com/TexasStrong from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT. Google will match $500,000 in telethon donations, with volunteers from Google’s Austin office and employees of TEGNA working the telethon phone banks. Donations also will be accepted at the RebuildTX.org website.

“The outpouring of support from the local community and communities across the nation is a testament to the spirit, grit and determination of the people of Texas,” said TEGNA president/CEO Dave Lougee.

The concert is the biggest fundraiser to be held at the Erwin Center since a 2011 benefit for victims of Bastrop wildfires that included performances by Nelson, Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Lovett and others.

Others who have donated “efforts and services” to the event, according to the press release, include the Erwin Center, Springboard Productions, Solomon Group, Big House Sounds, Soundcheck Austin, Hotel Van Zandt, Sodexo, GSD&M, Andy Langer, the Texas Music Office and the City of Austin. TEGNA is producing the broadcast in partnership with Debra Davis Productions. Austin company C3 Presents is producing the live event and also is donating all its services.

Florida evacuee who fled to Georgia dies days after her baby

With Hurricane Irma threatening Florida last week, Kaitlin Hunt and her 3-month-old daughter left their home to stay with relatives in Georgia.

But within hours of arriving at her parents’ home, a split-second tragedy changed everything. 

>> Read more trending news

Hunt, 28, was holding baby Riley as she and other family members and friends attempted to cross a Woodstock road shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday. That’s when Hunt, Riley and family friend Kathy Deming were struck by an SUV on Arnold Mill Road.

Riley died Saturday night following the crash. On Wednesday, a Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said Hunt died, too.

“Kaitlin Hunt passed away Tuesday evening, September 12, 2017 as a result of her injuries,” Sgt. Marianne Kelley said in a statement. 

Deming, 61, of Marietta, is still in the hospital as a result of her injuries and is slowly recovering, according to the sheriff’s office.

>> Related: Baby killed in Georgia crash was a Florida evacuee

Hunt and her husband, Brandon, were high school sweethearts who married in March 2016 and now called Port St. Lucie, Fla., home. An online GoFundMe page was created to assist the family. 

No charges have been filed in the crash, which remains under investigation.

Number of dead rises to 8 after Florida nursing home left without power by Irma

A criminal investigation was launched as the number of deaths in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, increased to eight on Wednesday afternoon. The home was evacuated Wednesday morning, days after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, creating dangerous conditions for the elderly residents.

>> Read more trending news

Paramedics were called around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, WPLG reported.

The center is a 152-bed, skilled nurse facility located across the street from the Memorial Regional Hospital, according to the center’s website.

Hurricane Irma aftermath: Don't have internet, cable or cell service? Here's why

Wi-Fi and cellphone coverage remain spotty throughout South Florida and other locations along Hurricane Irma's path. There’s a simple reason: Like everyone else, the companies that provide it don’t have power, thanks to the storm.

Cell towers across Florida have been cut off from the power grid and are relying on generators to keep going, spokespeople for two of the four major wireless carriers said.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: FPL begins full-scale post-Irma restoration, rebuild

“The faster the power comes back on, the faster all telecommunication services can get back on,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said Tuesday. “The power outages are just everywhere. It’s definitely causing a lot of effect across the board.”

For Comcast, the main provider of Wi-Fi in Palm Beach County, it’s a similar story.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma and aftermath

“Many of our facilities in Palm Beach County, and virtually all of them in Broward County and further south in Miami-Dade, are functioning on generators due to the complete loss of commercial power,” Comcast spokeswoman Mindy Kramer said.

Physical damage to cell towers doesn’t appear to be an issue. Towers are meant to withstand high winds.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

“It’s really rare to see a tower topple over,” said Roni Singleton, a Sprint spokeswoman for Florida.

But because of the power outages, the lack of coverage right now is worse in South Florida, and — bizarrely — much worse than Houston recently experienced despite that city’s massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

“There was really very little loss of mobile service in Houston, across all carriers,” the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. “Houston was able to maintain power the entire time.”

Cell towers are required to have batteries that provide eight to 12 hours of power for first responders, the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. After that, they rely on generators for power. But fallen trees and debris have made it difficult to refuel some of the generators, she said.

>> How to keep your kids entertained and your sanity when trapped at home by severe weather

Verizon said close to 90 percent of its facilities were working, with many running on backup generators.

“Massive refueling operations are underway to ensure those sites without commercial power continue in service for our customers and first responders,” the company said in a statement.

>> Hurricane Irma aftermath: Power may be out for days, over a week for some in Georgia

Sprint and Comcast said they’re sending satellite trucks and mobile platforms to South Florida to provide temporary coverage until power returns. AT&T said it was sending portable cell sites to the Keys, Miami and Tallahassee.

>> Read more trending news

None of the companies would give a time frame for when full coverage would return, but T-Mobile and Sprint said coverage was getting better by the hour.

“I think by [Wednesday], we’ll see a huge improvement in the number of sites that are back up,” Singleton said. 

Hurricane Irma damage in Daytona Beach: Tourist favorite meets Atlantic's largest storm

Volusia County, Florida, residents on Monday morning awoke to toppled trees, downed power lines, flooded streets and damaged property.

>> Watch the news report here

Hurricane Irma brought howling winds and pounding rains to the county.

>> On WFTV.com: PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma damage in Volusia County

Officials urged residents to ascend to the highest floor of their homes. But for some, the rising water became too dangerous.

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

The Daytona Beach Fire Department said it had to evacuate people from flooded apartments along Beach Street.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said deputies rescued 14 people from the floodwaters.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

The residents were taken to the city's Midtown Cultural and Education Center. No injuries were reported.

Elsewhere in the city, iconic attractions weren't spared from Irma's wrath.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, leaves damage behind

A large water slide at Daytona Lagoon, a popular water and amusement park, blew into an adjacent street.

Storm surge washed away beaches and left a Ponce Inlet boardwalk in ruins.

>> Read more trending news

The Daytona Beach Police Department said officers arrested a trio of burglars who were raiding a store.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said that he has no tolerance for looting. He said that the county would be under curfew from 10 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday.

>> Irma: Live updates

Daytona Beach firefighters housed at Station 1 said the kitchen ceiling caved in. They said the bays harboring the fire trucks were so heavily flooded that the vehicles had to be moved to prevent damage.

>> Watch Volusia County deputies rescue Hurricane Irma victims

Hurricane Irma aftermath: Power may be out for days, over a week for some in Georgia

More than 700,000 Georgians remained without power Tuesday night because of Hurricane Irma, which weakened to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Peach State.

>> Watch the news report here

Georgia Power reported more than 425,000 customers in the dark. Georgia EMC said it had close to 300,000 customers without power. Both of those numbers are down significantly since the storm hit Monday, when 1.5 million were dealing with an outage.

The numbers are constantly changing as crews work to restore power in many neighborhoods.

>> For the latest numbers, head to WSBTV.com

“Every region in the state has been affected, and it's going to take time for us to get back to normal in terms of power restoration,” Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said in a news conference Tuesday.

Crews are working around the clock to restore power. Georgia EMC utilities brought in 3,000 crew members from 13 states to help out.

>> Irma: Live updates

"We are doing everything we can to restore it," Jackson EMC lineman Jose Salgado said.

“This is where all people within the company really pull together. Everybody has an obligation and duty as a Georgia Power employee and everybody has a storm role and responsibility," Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins told WSB-TV's Aaron Diamant.

>> Read more trending news

Inside the company's command center in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, staff worked to ensure the right resources were in the right places, but Hawkins said this won't be a quick process.

“As we go through today and tomorrow, we will have a better idea about the damage and the estimates. We will be bringing some customers back, but it may take a couple more days; it may take over a week to get customers back on," he said.

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

Georgia EMC's district engineering coordinator Bennie Bagwell said they're hoping to have all their power restored by Thursday.

If you are a Georgia Power customer, you can check on your outage or report an outage through their outage map on their website. Georgia EMC customers can find more information on their website.

>> On WSBTV.com: Georgia Gov. Deal to Hurricane Irma evacuees: Don't go home until it's safe

"This is one where the entire state of Georgia has been affected by this hurricane/tropical storm. And as a result of that, recovery is going to be a little more slow because there are greater territories that have to be covered before anything can be back to a normal environment,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday.

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