Thousands in Florida may not get electricity back for weeks after devastating hurricane

Ms Margo Anderson waves to Mr Charles Bellamy after notifying him of the community command centre at City Hall, on Oct 14, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LYNN HAVEN, FLORIDA (NYTIMES) - Mayor Margo Anderson drove through the neighbourhoods of her small bayside city on Sunday (Oct 14) to deliver some unwelcome news: The electric power knocked out nearly a week ago by Hurricane Michael might not be restored for two months.

"Just about every tree is down," said Ms Anderson, a fifth-generation citizen who was elected mayor of Lynn Haven three years ago. "The power lines are destroyed. The transformers are destroyed. The power grid is destroyed. We have to start over."

That is the dire reality in the necklace of rural towns and coastal communities across north-west Florida that Michael gutted.

Residents already reeling from the storm's unexpectedly brutal winds now face the prospect of spending weeks relying on generators burning expensive fuel, or depending on aid from emergency workers.

"I just want to be realistic and warn people that for a while, it's going to be pretty primitive living," Ms Anderson said.

Some 371,000 customers were still without electricity in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia on Sunday afternoon, according to the Edison Electric Institute, while more than 2.3 million customers who lost power in the storm have had it restored.

The majority of customers still suffering from Michael-related blackouts - about 182,000 - were in Florida, according to the state's emergency response team.

About 2,000 people remained in storm shelters on Sunday, and the storm's confirmed national death toll rose to 19.

The power situation is worst in the Florida counties directly in the northward path traced by Michael's destructive eye: 99 per cent of customers remained in the dark on Sunday in Gulf County, 98 per cent in Calhoun County and 91 per cent in Jackson County. Neighbouring counties were nearly as badly off.

"It's almost like a huge bulldozer went down the middle of Panama City and straight up through," said Mr Jeff Rogers, a Gulf Power spokesman. "This is kind of the Super Bowl of all big storms."

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