Though the worst of Hurricane Irma has passed in South Florida, many residents are still anxiously awaiting the return of basic services, such as power, WiFi and ice.
Most businesses and gas stations in the area have reopened, with dark storefronts and long lines of cars leading up to gas stations growing more and more scarce. By Friday, most gas station crowds looked relatively normal.
While most service providers say it’s impossible to give promises on restoration, many are trying to give customers a time-frame on when they can expect a return to normalcy —whatever that means in Miami. And besides people really missing outside supplies of ice, Monday should be the start of life back to normal in South Florida.
Florida Power and Light projected Thursday that they would try to have power restored for almost all customers on Florida’s east coast by Sunday at midnight. Bud Fraga, spokesperson for FPL, said that projection still stood on Friday.
About 243,000 people in Miami-Dade County, 22 percent of FPL’s customers in the area, still didn’t have power as of 10 a.m. Friday, according to Fraga.
In Broward, about 155,000, or 17 percent of FPL’s customers in the county, still didn’t have power as of the same time.
Fraga cautioned that those with more severe impacts, such as tornado-level damage or significant tree damage, may have to wait “a bit longer.” He said those customers can expect to hear from FPL on an individual basis when their power should be restored.
He also had an urgent message for drivers.
“Please obey the move over law,” Fraga said, referencing the law that requires motorists to either significantly slow down or pull into the other lane when they see emergency vehicles pulled to the side of the road. “We had a lineman who came all the way from Michigan to help get hit by a car.”
The lineman was hit Thursday, and Fraga said he was not seriously hurt. When linemen are not as worried about their own safety they can also work faster, Fraga added.
All of Miami-Dade homes and businesses that get their water from county services should be able to use water services as normal, according to Jennifer Messemer, spokesperson for Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department.
Messemer added that as a precautionary measure, they tell people with noticeably lower water pressure than normal that they should boil their water. She also said that in the interest of not overburdening the system as they make repairs, they’re asking people to try to conserve their water use.
“We know people need to hose off their porches and driveways and clean up,” Messemer said. “But if you can put a nozzle on your hose or turn the water off when you’re not using it, it relieves some pressure as we continue to make repairs.”
Messemer said that extra need to conserve water — though people should never be wasteful with water use — should be over by Monday.
WiFi and cable
When you’ll be able to use Netflix or watch a football game obviously depends on your provider. Mindy Kramer, vice president for public relations for Comcast in Florida, said Friday that most of their customers were seeing a return to services either as soon as they got power or shortly after.
“If FPL’s projection for restoring power by Sunday night is right, then most of our customers should also have WiFi and cable Sunday night,” she said.
They’ve restored power to 70,000 in the past 24 hours throughout Florida, and 100,000 the night before, she said. She recommends people reboot their Comcast devices after they regain power.
“Those numbers getting lower is good, because it means less and less people don’t have service,” Kramer said.
Like FPL, Kramer said Comcast has found some areas were severely impacted and will have to wait longer. The company is still identifying which areas fall under that category.
Kelly Starling, spokesperson for AT&T, said they’re working as quickly as they can to restore services. She declined to provide specifics.
Crowds and lines at grocery stores have diminished significantly. A Publix in Doral had empty parking spaces Friday afternoon, more cashiers than people in line and plenty of stock, with only a few items diminished.
Jesus Suarez, 43, was taking care of his kids Friday and picking up a few miscellaneous groceries. He said in the parking lot that the store seemed to be restocking items such as ice, meat and water, but besides that everything seemed to be back to normal. He said his wife had returned to work Friday and he was going back to work Monday.
Yiyi Clauset, 55, who was working in Doral Friday and stopped by Publix to get lunch, said she hasn’t seen crowds there for the past couple of days.
“Everything was amazing and back to a normal Publix,” she said. “It was great.”
A media relations representative did not return a request for comment by press time.
Brandon Neal, a managing partner for American Ice, an ice supplier based in Fort Lauderdale, said normal ice supplies probably won’t resume in the area until late next week.
He’s been taking in rationed ice from outside the state, since many local producers are unsure when they’ll be equipped to start production again.
Normally, one of his trucks is able to deliver to 15 to 20 locations, Neal said. He’s getting hundreds of requests per day for deliveries, to locations where they’re completely out of ice instead of just replenishing a limited supply.
He also said some municipalities have been much better than others in preparing, with some cities calling days before Hurricane Irma stuck to set up orders. Others just started calling him yesterday, he said, and seemed shocked that he couldn’t deliver ice to them right away.
“They think it’s like ordering a pizza,” Neal said. “You can’t just call me up, order ice and expect to get it by tomorrow.”
If the 90-degree heat plus humidity continues in Florida, Neal estimates the first time stores will have a stable supply of ice is late next week.
Most schools in Miami-Dade and Broward are aiming to reopen by Monday, though some still didn’t have power Friday.
Five South Florida Catholic schools are already back in session: St. Andrew Catholic School in Coral Springs, St. Bonaventure School in Davie, St. Coleman in Pompano Beach, St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores and Marian Center in Miami Gardens.
A school-by-school breakdown can be found here.
Miami-Dade courts and clerk offices are all reopening on Monday, according to their final Hurricane Irma advisory sent Friday.
“All bond hearings will resume their regular calendars at their regular locations on Monday as well,” the release said.