Florida Recovers From Wilma

While Florida struggles with the largest power outage in the state’s history, $10 billion in damages is expected to result.

Either we’ve seen it in the news, or we heard it roaring outside our homes earlier this week, but everyone knows about it. Hurricane Wilma plowed through southern Florida leaving a big mess behind.

An estimated 2.5 million homes are without power in the state of Florida today, as rescue workers and cleanup crews go about their business. In regard to what is described as the worst power outage in Florida history, it could take a month to restore electricity. Widespread power outages plus the usual assortment of telecommunications foul-ups make it hard to find out about damages to specific resort areas. In this instance, the affected area was so broad that a huge number of resort properties took at least minimal damage. I’ll try to summarize what I know at this time.

– The Florida keys have flooded, and the Overseas Highway has been rendered impassable in at least two places. Key West International Airport is shut down due to flooding. Concern was voiced yesterday over damaged docking facilities which could hamper rescue efforts. About 90% of Keys residents stayed in their homes during hurricane Wilma. Consequently, right now there’s a lot of people without power, refrigeration, or clean water (a water main broke because of the storm). The Keys are reportedly experiencing the worst flooding in years. We’re waiting to hear more from the Keys, but I don’t expect good news.

-Though flooding in the streets was as deep as five feet in some places, Naples survived the storm more intact than previous estimates allowed for. Flooding from the storm surge is receeding, and Naples expects to be back in business by the end of this week. Marco Island survived better than expected, though 3,000 homes had their roofs damaged. The Radisson Suite Beach Resort on Marco Island also sustained some roof damage, and it will reopen once it has been repaired. The Ritz-Carlton at Naples expects to reopen at 12 PM on Friday, October 28, and is only waiting for additonal clean-up and power restoration. As for other hotels in the area, The Registry Resort & Club also expects to be open for business later this week.

-Wilma’s winds grew stronger as she passed over Florida’s East Coast, and this is where some of the worst damage occured. High-rise buildings in Miami lost their windows, and the storm lobbed pieces of asphalt into parked cars. 98% of homes and businesses in Miami-Dade and Broward counties remain without power. This in turn complicates the assessment of damages; most resorts are waiting until the power is back on before they investigate damages. What we do know is that Fort Lauderdale hasn’t been hit this hard by a hurricane since 1950, and that structural damage to resort properties is likely.

-Many airports in southern Florida are not operating. However, Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers is open, and flights should resume today. MIA and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airports are unsure whether or not they will be able to reopen today.

Regardless of what you read here today, remember that online information and third-hand news reports can be faulty. If you’re worried about your specific timeshare or other vacation property, contact your resort ASAP. Unless you weathered Wilma in your timeshare (we’d love to hear stories if anyone has done this) you won’t know the extent of the damages until you ask. Due diligence, coupled with an equal measure of assertiveness, has saved many a timeshare owner from nasty surprises.

More on Florida as more information becomes available.