President Assesses Wilma's Damage

President George W. Bush , joined by his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, visits a relief center in Pompano Beach, Fla., as he surveys damage from Hurricane Wilma, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005. President Bush on Thursday predicted a robust response to Hurricane Wilma, grinning and greeting relief volunteers while a political storm gripped the White House back home. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP
Many Floridians struggled another day to find food, water and fuel after Hurricane Wilma on Thursday, with lines of people and cars forming around home improvement stores and gas stations.

President Bush arrived in Miami to visit the National Hurricane Center and boarded a helicopter to get his first look at the damage wrought by Wilma in Florida, where about two million homes and businesses were still without power.

"Things don't happen instantly, but things are happening," Mr. Bush said.

"People are getting fed. Soon more and more houses will have their electricity," Mr. Bush added as he greeted relief volunteers in Pompano Beach. "Their life will get back to normal."

Many gas stations that had fuel were without electricity, and others that had power ran out of supplies. Shouting matches started at some stations when people tried cutting in line.

The long lines for gasoline have residents tired and weary. It reminds many of Hurricane Katrina all over again with help not coming soon enough CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports. Officials blame the widespread power outage saying it's delaying cargo planes and trucks.

Criticism is widespread. At a senior citizen community outside Miami, resident Marilyn Abramowitz tells Regan, "Nobody, not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the governor, not the mayor, nobody, has given us any attention. And we are 15,000 people."

But progress was being made: Port Everglades had power back for most of its fuel depot, which supplies stations across South Florida. About 700 trucks will be picking up gas there to deliver to stations Thursday, down from the normal 1,000, said Carlos Buqueras, director of business development at the Fort Lauderdale-area port.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez said the state's largest utility, Florida Power & Light, had reprioritized its efforts to restore electricity to gas stations and grocery stores quickly. His county has lent generators to some businesses to get them open and he has asked for more from the federal government.

Nine of the 11 water and ice distribution sites in Miami-Dade ran out of supplies Wednesday, but 10 were restocked Thursday, he said. Broward County had 17 sites open Thursday. Thousands of exasperated people have waited in lines for hours this week to get basic supplies.

A day earlier, Gov. Jeb Bush took responsibility for frustrating relief delays in a state all too familiar with powerful storms. On Thursday, Bush again pleaded for patience and said supplies were shipped overnight to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"While we have a historic amount of product coming to these places, it's not enough, so we're going to have a couple of days before we get to the point where our supply will meet the demand," he said.

The criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was reminiscent of the anger unleashed following Hurricane Katrina.

"This is like the Third World," said Claudia Shaw, who spent several hours in a gas line. "We live in a state where we suffer from these storms every year. Where is the planning?"