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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.”

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.

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

If you have damage to your home from a tree or water, there are certain steps you need to take to stay safe.

>> Watch the news report here

On Tuesday, WSB-TV’s Craig Lucie spoke with officials from a heating and electrical company who said there are hidden dangers like live wires in your home and carbon monoxide triggers that need to be dealt with immediately.

>> Irma: Live updates

There are trees down everywhere and while you know to stay away from downed power lines, there could also be live wires inside your home from trees falling.

>> Keep the butter, toss the eggs: What to keep, throw away if you lost power after Irma

“If you've had a tree come down on your home, nine out of 10 times you will have damage to the infrastructure on your home so wires could be pulled loose, certain connections could be broken (including) live wire you don't know about it,” said Daniel Jape, the president of Reliable Heating and Air.

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

Jape met with Lucie in their call center where they were busy fielding calls from people with storm damage.

More Irma coverage from WSBTV.com:

>> Here is the damage Tropical Storm Irma has caused in Georgia>> 55-year-old man killed when tree falls on home>> VIDEO: Large tree nearly lands on woman driving down road

“If a part of your heating unit is located in the basement or in a crawl space, what you want to do is a visual inspection. You don’t need to go all the way in there but if you see there is some standing water, you need to call a heat and air conditioning company to come out there and inspect it,” Jape explained.

If you try to fix it yourself, it can be extremely dangerous.

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

“If you are standing in water and plug something in and the outlet is wet, you can create a direct short. Electricity will flow from the outlet, into you and into the water and you could essentially cause death,” he said.

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

Jape also said since wires to your home are hidden in the walls, if you try and plug something in an outlet, the wire could catch fire, setting the insulation on fire and next thing you know, your home could be engulfed in flames.

>> Read more trending news

He also says if a tree or branch came down near your HVAC system outside, call a professional.

“Things can hit those pipes and break them at home or inside house. They can even have carbon monoxide buildup in there,” he said.

How disasters affect schoolchildren for years afterward

Clearing up physical damage is only part of recovering from a major disaster, according to researchers. Even when the power comes back on and roofs are fixed, a serious human-caused or natural disaster can negatively affect schoolchildren for years.

>> Read more trending news

David Schonfeld, head of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California, said adults don’t always see how the effects of a disaster can linger with children. 

“People may have died, and there is grief related to that,” Schonfeld said. “Children don’t easily get over it. They don’t forget it. They don’t go back to the way they were before.” 

According to the research, graduation rates and academic performance tend to drop after a disaster. The amount of the drop varies from situation to situation. 

Schonfeld said he told one school administrator the effect of a large disaster was like a runner in a marathon sitting out awhile after hurting her ankle. The runner may keep running -- even running at the same pace -- but time has been lost from sitting out. 

Read more about how children are affected by major storms on myajc.com

Hurricane Irma: For undocumented immigrants, this isn’t the worst storm of their lives

There are storms of the earth and storms of the heart. Walter Villa Toro knows this too well. 

This is why the 30-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala packed up his young family, boarded up their rental apartment in Lake Worth and sought shelter at Forest Hill High as Hurricane Irma loomed. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Villa Toro says he doesn't want to lose a family again. He left his hometown, Santa Cruz Barillas, and moved to Florida 12 years ago, with dreams of becoming a musician.

“I haven’t seen my parents or four siblings ever since I moved from Guatemala,” says Villa Toro, who mows lawns for a living. “My mom tells me to come back, to have the family together again, but I have goals in America.” 

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

Hurricane Irma may be the unifying force for Villa Toro and the many who sought refuge at the storm shelter. But like other immigrants at this facility, with the cramped corridors and stinky bathrooms, it is American goals that thread their stories together. 

For Maria Resendiz, a 45-year-old mother from Hidalgo, Mexico, the goals are not about possessions, but security. 

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from the Palm Beach Post

“I’m not afraid to lose material things," says Resendiz, who arrived at the shelter with her husband and three children Friday morning. “I pray everyday for the safety of my family.” 

There's another prayer as well. It is evident at lunchtime, when Resendiz intently reads from a book titled “Ciudadania Americana" (American Citizenship) between bites of applesauce and meat patty. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Florida woman delivers own baby at home as storm rages

Resendiz, who has worked for 10 years at a local cosmetics factory, is studying for her U.S. citizenship exam, which could be scheduled at any time now. She says she already knows most of the answers, though she's concerned about her accent and English pronunciations. 

She must focus on such details because a critical matter depends on her passing the test. Her mother is dying of complications from diabetes in Mexico. Resendiz can't travel there without citizenship. If she does, she may not be able to return. 

Other stories you may like from the Palm Beach Post:

>> Hurricane Irma: Live from the Palm Beach Central shelter 

>> Scenes of sadness, sharing in a Boca Raton shelter

>> Fleeing Hurricane Irma: A special needs family, and a survivor of Katrina and Harvey

For fellow immigrant Noe Aguilar, the concerns are less about homeland and more about here and now. The 32-year-old Guatemalan man came to the shelter with his wife and four kids, whom he supports by doing lawn work. 

On his mind as he chats with a Lake Worth neighbor outside the shelter: What to do with all this unexpected down time. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Georgia sheriff's office's snarky, viral post warns residents to avoid 'stupid factor'

"I wish I brought my soccer ball to kill time. I’m not used not doing anything an entire day.”

Meantime, Villa Toro uses the downtime to allow himself a glance back in time. He remembers a Guatemalan childhood so poor he would have to make his own swimming goggles with a piece of glass to fish underwater. He couldn’t afford fishing gear, much less fresh fish from the market.

>> Hurricane Irma: Florida deputy, corrections sergeant die in head-on crash during storm

“I still remember the taste of fresh fish from the river,” he says. 

That fish would be delicious now with tortillas and rice, he joked as he munched on a storm-shelter granola bar. 

Truth be told, he says, he's worked hard here to scrape together the little that he has. If he loses everything due to Irma, it would take him a long time to get back on his feet and support his family here.

>> Read more trending news

Still, he hangs on tightly to his dreams.

Villa Toro says he is saving to buy a piano. He hopes to return to Guatemala one day and play music for his mother.

Hurricane Irma: Georgia sheriff's office's snarky, viral post warns residents to avoid 'stupid factor'

A Georgia sheriff’s office has given an unusual warning about the remnants of Hurricane Irma, which will impact the state Monday. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for every county ahead of the storm.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

And the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office’s warning is going viral for its blunt, sarcastic nature.

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from WFTV

“Please be prepared to be without electricity for a few days due to high winds and trees taking out utility lines. You might even lose your internet connection, which probably scares you more than being without TV or air conditioning,” it begins.

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

After some necessary warnings about wind and supplies, the post veers into “the stupid factor” with the force of a hurricane wind.

>> Read more trending news

“Try to avoid the stupid factor. Stupid makes more work for us, EMTs and ER personnel. In fact, stupid is the reason most of us have jobs,” the statement says. “If you have stupid friends, avoid them until the power comes back on. If YOU are the stupid one, then please sit this one out and wait til an ice storm [comes] along before you demonstrate your capabilities.”

>> Read the post here

Hurricane Irma: Florida woman delivers own baby at home as storm rages

A South Florida woman delivered a baby at home after being coached through the delivery by emergency personnel and doctors during Hurricane Irma

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

The Miami woman went into labor Sunday, but because the storm’s winds were too strong, fire rescue teams couldn’t get to her right away, according to the Miami Herald

>> Hurricane Irma: Follow the latest headlines from the Palm Beach Post

“We weren’t able to respond. So she delivered the placenta, also. Dispatch told her how to tie it off. She’s stable at home,” Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia told the Herald. “We made contact with the assistant medical director here. Talked things through.”

>> Read more trending news

The mother and newborn girl were later taken to the hospital by emergency workers

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Photos of Hurricane Irma

Read more at the Miami Herald

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