Friday, September 15, 2017

Rural Florida residents, crops still reeling from Irma

Rural Florida is still reeling from Hurricane Irma, with many still waiting for aid. "Florida's rural counties say they are facing unique challenges created by Irma and don't want to be overshadowed by the concerns of larger, urban areas," Jake Stofan reports for WCTV, which covers the Gulf Coast's Big Bend, where the peninsula meets the panhandle. As of Sept. 13, many gas stations were still dry and grocery stores depleted of supplies.

In Monticello, Fla., many businesses and residents are still without power, WTXL-TV reports. A spokesperson for the Tri-County Electric Co-Op says "We were advising our members to prepare for that, for seven to ten days." As of Sept. 13, power was still out for about half of the homes and businesses affected by Irma, about 4.3 million customers. "The total number of customers still out, representing about 9 million people in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, dipped from a peak of more than 7.8 million customers, or over 16 million people, on Monday," Scott DiSavino reports for Reuters. The largest utility in Florida, Florida Power & Light, warned customers it could take weeks to restore the power in some areas.

Electricity isn't the only problem. In the rural southern town of Immokalee, near the Everglades, the storm destroyed the homes of many impoverished farm workers. "Many homes — mostly uninsurable trailers — are gone or heavily damaged. The fields where they work have been flooded or scoured by wind. They have families to support, mouths to feed, trailers to fix, looters to watch out for and no idea when they’ll have an income again," Kate Irby and Lesley Clark report for The Miami Herald.

The damage to Florida's crops is another long-term possible problem. Florida is the second-largest produce grower in the U.S. and accounts for almost 10 percent of the nation's land dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables, Alan Bjerga reports for Bloomberg. Irma "could devastate the farm economy of Florida, a state with a unique history as a producer of winter fruits and vegetables given its warmer climate. Damage to croplands could affect U.S. food prices and farmer finances in the months and years to come."

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