Trump views Florida ruin
NAPLES, Fla. — President Donald Trump doled out hoagies and handshakes in the sweltering Florida heat Thursday as he took…
NAPLES, Fla. — President Donald Trump doled out hoagies and handshakes in the sweltering Florida heat Thursday as he took a tour of Irma’s devastation and repeatedly congratulated federal and state agencies on their recovery efforts.
Trump, who was in and out of the state in about three hours, got an aerial view of the water-deluged homes along Florida’s southwestern coast from his helicopter, then drove in his motorcade along streets lined with felled trees, darkened traffic lights and shuttered stores on his way to a mobile-home community hit hard by the storm.
Walking along a street in Naples Estates with his wife, Melania, the president encountered piles of broken siding and soggy furniture sitting on a front porch, and residents and volunteers who were happy to get a presidential visit.
“We are there for you 100 percent,” Trump said before donning gloves and helping to hand out sandwiches to local residents from a lunch line under a canopy. “I’ll be back here numerous times. This is a state that I know very well.”
As he left the state, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he planned another hurricane-related trip, to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were both badly hit by Irma.
“I spoke to both governors. We’ve got it very well covered,” Trump said. “Virgin Islands was really hit. They were hit about as hard as I’ve ever seen.”
The president brushed off a question about whether the recent hurricanes had made him rethink his views on climate change, which he has previously dismissed as a “hoax.” He said, “If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we’ve had storms over the years that have been bigger than this.”
Trump earlier met with federal and state leaders in Fort Myers, where he was brimming with enthusiasm for the state and federal response effort, calling it “a team like very few people have seen.”
The president couldn’t resist injecting a political flavor into his visit, telling reporters in Fort Myers that he was hopeful that Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a two-term Republican, would run for the Senate, where Democrat Bill Nelson is up for re-election next year.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do. But I know at a certain point it ends for you and we can’t let it end. So I hope he runs for the Senate,” Trump said.
Trump’s visit offered him the chance to see how people are coping with Irma’s aftermath and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding. Many Florida residents’ homes remain inundated and without electricity. Nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses, about 1 in 4 Florida customers, were still without power Thursday.
Vice President Mike Pence, who joined Trump on the trip, promised Floridians: “We’re with you today. We’re going to be with you tomorrow and we’re going to be with you until Florida rebuilds bigger and better than ever before.”
Trump’s trip to Florida was his third in less than three weeks to the storm-ravaged South.
After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, Trump drew criticism for having minimal interaction with residents during his first trip in late August. He saw little damage and offered few expressions of concern.
On his second visit, to Texas and Louisiana, he was more hands-on. He toured a Houston shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and walking streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions.
This time, Trump made sure to connect with a community in recovery. He hewed toward hearty handshakes and enthusiastic promises rather than hugs and tears, but he was well-received by people grappling with the storm.
A day after eight people died at a nursing home in the post-hurricane heat, Florida senior citizens were ushered out of stifling assisted-living centers while caregivers fought a lack of air conditioning with popsicles and cool compresses.
Dozens of the state’s senior centers still lacked electricity, and several facilities were forced to evacuate. While detectives sought clues to the deaths, emergency workers went door-to-door to look for anyone else who was at risk.
Fifty-seven residents were moved from a suburban Fort Lauderdale assisted-living facility without power to two nearby homes where power had been restored. Owner Ralph Marrinson said all five of his Florida facilities lost electricity after Irma. Workers scrambled to keep patients cool with emergency stocks of ice and popsicles.
“FPL has got to have a better plan for power,” he said, referring to the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light. “We’re supposed to be on a priority list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly it’s very scary.”
Stepped-up safety checks were conducted around the state after the eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Hollywood, which shocked Florida’s top leaders.
Investigators in that case said Thursday that at least one of the dead had passed Tuesday, several hours before authorities said they were alerted to a crisis at the facility early Wednesday.
This revelation added to lingering questions about how things were able to deteriorate to such an extent that several patients at the Hollywood nursing home died and more than 100 others had to be evacuated to hospitals.
Authorities in Hollywood, where police have launched a criminal investigation into the deaths, said Wednesday that investigators had found that the nursing home still had some power. But the initial investigation found that “the building’s air conditioning system was not fully functional,” the city and the Police Department said in a joint statement.
Police said they have obtained a search warrant for the facility, which had a history of citations and poor inspections.
The facility’s administrator, Jorge Carballo, said in a statement that it was cooperating fully with authorities.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday night that he has directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate the center as a Medicaid provider. The program provides health care for low-income individuals and families.
Reached by phone Thursday, Rosemary Cooper, a licensed practical nurse at the rehabilitation center, declined to discuss specifics about the case, citing the investigation.
“The people who were working there worked hard to make a good outcome for our patients,” she said. “We cared for them like family.”
Older people can be more susceptible to heat because their bodies do not adjust to temperatures as well as those of younger people. They do not sweat as much and are more likely to have medical conditions that change how the body responds to heat. They are also more likely to take medication that affects body temperature.
Most people who die from high body temperature, known as hyperthermia, are over 50, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Statewide, 64 nursing homes were still waiting Thursday for full power, according to the Florida Health Care Association. The separate Florida Assisted Living Association said many of its South Florida members lacked electricity. The group was working on a precise count.
A day earlier near Orlando, firefighters helped relocate 122 people from two assisted-living centers that had been without power since the storm. And at the 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door to check on residents and provide ice, water and meals.
Including the nursing home deaths, at least 26 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.
A lineman from Arkansas was shocked by electricity and badly burned while assisting with power restoration efforts in Georgia, officials said Thursday.
The man was hurt while assisting crews with Georgia Pacific in the town of Ocilla, Ga., which is about 180 miles south and east of Atlanta, said Irwin County Emergency Management Services Director Jerry Edwards.
Edwards said the worker was taken to a burn center in Augusta, Ga., in stable but critical condition. He remained there as of Thursday.
The circumstances surrounding how the man was shocked were not given. His identity also was not released.
Ashley West, a spokesman for Georgia Pacific, said the worker was not affiliated with the power company.
Information for this article was contributed by Catherine Lucey, Ken Thomas, Laurie Kellman, Terry Spencer, Jay Reeves, Tim Reynolds, Brendan Farrington, Gary Fineout, Joe Reedy, Adriana Gomez Licon, Michael Melia, Jennifer Kay, Freida Frisaro, Curt Anderson and David Fischer of The Associated Press; by Mark Berman of The Washington Post; and by staff members of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
A Section on 09/15/2017
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Trump views Florida ruin