CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Millions of Floridians grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, confronting a sweltering reality: Nearly half of Florida still lacked electricity, and for some of them, the lights might not come back on for days or even weeks.
“We understand what it means to be in the dark,” said Robert Gould, vice president and chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light (FPL), the state’s largest utility. “We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning. We will be restoring power day and night.”
But, he acknowledged: “This is going to be a very uncomfortable time.”
Across the nation’s third most-populous state, that discomfort played out in homes that were silent without the usual thrum of perpetual air-conditioning. It meant refrigerators were unable to cool milk, laundry machines were unable to clean clothes and, for the particularly young and old, potential danger in a state where the temperatures can range from warm to stifling.
Even for those who had power, some also were struggling to maintain cellphone service or Internet access, sending Floridians into tree-riddled streets in an effort to spot a few precious bars of signal to contact loved ones.
“It’s a mess, a real mess. The biggest issue is power,” said Bill Barnett, mayor of Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “We just need power. It’s 92 degrees and the sun is out and it’s smoking out there.”