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Floridians Clearing Away Debris

When the sun came out Wednesday, twisted fences and fallen tree limbs dotted some communities and South Floridians started the slow process of cleaning up after one of the worst winter storms since March 1993.

Roughly 85,000 customers were without power in the southern third of Florida most of them in Miami-Dade County and some roads remained closed, either blocked by debris or flooded. Florida Power and Light expected that power would be fully restored by Thursday night.

A fierce winter storm on Monday tore the roof off an apartment building here, damaged hundreds of homes and mangled dozens of small planes. Early estimates placed damages in the tens of millions of dollars.

In Miami Springs, north of Miami International Airport, smashed furniture and personal belongings were strewn about where the apartment building lost its roof. Broken glass and tree limbs littered the street. Cars were dented by fallen trees and debris.

"I lived through Hurricane Andrew and this damage reminds me of that," said William Acosta, who saw people run out of the building after the roof came off.

Much of the area was still without power Wednesday. Many residents packed up and left early in the day, but Acosta was cooking chicken on a hibachi.

Residents who decided to stay in their apartments walked around with flashlights, looking at the damage. Many neighbors sat out on their front steps, watching, and helping in the cleanup.

Deli Silvers was home with her husband and their two children when the tornado tore across the complex. Their building suffered no damage, but they, too, are without electricity.

"We were all on the coach holding each other," Silvers said. "I've never been so scared."

Further north in Hialeah, the storm damaged homes and flipped several cars.

"From what I've seen there's anywhere from 350-400 homes damaged," said Mayor Raul Martinez. "There were (roof) tiles flying around. These things were projectiles, but believe it or not, there was not a single injury. That's pretty incredible."

Still north in Carol City, near Pro Player Stadium where the Florida Marlins play baseball and the Miami Dolphins play football, fences were down, fallen trees blocked the sidewalks and windows were broken at the Pet Rescue animal shelter.

The powerful storm blew out of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing tornadoes and drenching rain as it ripped across southern Florida and drove at least two ships aground. Several people had to be rescued at sea and one man was killed in Key West.

Dozens of small planes were damaged or destroyed at two South Florida airports that cater to private aircraft. Buildings were damaged on Grassy Key, Conch Key and in Marathon.

The storm moved slowly northward, and states along the East Coast braced for rain, wind and snow.

The last bg winter storm was in March 1993. The so-called "Storm of the Century" raced in from the Gulf, causing widespread damage in 38 counties including 10 deaths.

Miami International Airport, where a 104-mph wind gust was reported Monday night, got socked with 4.5 inches of rain. Rainfalls of more than 5 inches were reported in the suburbs south of Miami. Four tornadoes touched down in the Miami area, including one near the airport.

One man, John Herndon, 35, was killed on Stock Island, just north of Key West, as he worked to keep a fishing boat from hitting a dock in the gusty winds.

By RACHEL LA CORTE, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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