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Slowly Cleaning Up After Wilma

Electricity has been restored to the luckiest homes and businesses in Florida. A few gas stations and eateries opened, more streets became passable and even trash removal returned to some overwhelmed areas.

Miami International Airport reopened to domestic flights Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Wilma, but the biggest carrier there, American Airlines, expected to operate only half its flights. West Palm Beach's airport also opened, but Fort Lauderdale's remained closed.

Still, despite all the small causes for celebration in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, much of the focus remained on the immense problems that could plague the state for weeks during its recovery from the Category 3 storm.

It came in a lot stronger than most had anticipated and took just seven hours to tear through southern Florida, reports CBS News correspondent Trish Regan. While it wasn't the most powerful hurricane in recent years, it was one of the most damaging.

The 21st storm in the worst Atlantic hurricane season on record, Wilma was blamed for at least five deaths in Florida alone. Before hitting the United States, it killed at least four people in Mexico, one in Jamaica and 12 in Haiti as it swirled across the Caribbean.

Trucks carrying the first wave of relief in Florida — food, ice and water — either arrived much later than local officials expected or simply didn't show up at all. Hundreds of people lined up outside one home-supply store, desperate for cleanup and other items. Drivers waited five hours at gas stations, and at a handful of fast-food restaurants open in the Miami area, burgers were available — to those willing to endure two-hour waits.

Nearly 12,000 people lined up for hours outside Miami's Orange Bowl, in hopes of getting a bag of ice and a jug of water from FEMA, reports Regan.

"These people are lined up for blocks. By the time they get home their ice will melt. It's ridiculous," said a woman.

Nine hours after she first got in line at one of the designated relief-supply locations, Fanie Aristil, 23, of North Miami wearily left for home with 28 pounds of ice and 6 liters of bottled water.

"All that time," Aristil said. "This is all we get?"

Tempers were short, both on the roads and off, reports CBS News' Peter Combs, both with each other and with the government.

FEMA spokeswoman Frances Marine urged Floridians to be patient, and reminded residents that problems such as the ones that popped up Tuesday were why officials suggested that people have 72 hours' of essential supplies — including water — available ahead of Wilma's arrival.

"People will have their needs met," Marine said. "The bottom line is that there's a plan in place."

Eight-months-pregnant Victoria Peña, her husband, and their two small children walked five miles just to get ice, water, and a few necessities after their apartment was ripped apart by Hurricane Wilma.

"A big tree fell on our car, so now we're without a car. Part of our roof came off," Peña told Combs.


CBS News' Peter Combs reports on a man who gave up his job to help in the relief effort.


Gov. Jeb Bush predicted that his "battle-tested" state would steadily see better days, and his older brother, President Bush, planned a Thursday visit to assess damage in Florida. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff also planned a visit.

The quantity of debris was daunting: pieces of roofs, trees, signs, awnings, fences, billboards and pool screens were scattered across several counties. Damage estimates ranged up to $10 billion, and the landscape of the state's most populous region — the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area — was laden with destruction.

Some of the worst damage was in downtown Fort Lauderdale, where Wilma was the strongest hurricane to strike since 1950. Winds of more than 100 mph blew out windows in high-rises, many built before Florida enacted tougher construction codes following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Wilma knocked out power for hundreds of miles, cutting off electricity to a staggering one out of three Florida residents. Florida Power & Light, the state' biggest utility, said Wilma affected more of its 4.3 million customers than any other natural disaster in the company's history.

By early Wednesday, 13 percent of FPL's customers who lost service because of Wilma had their lights back on — but the company continued to remind Floridians that a total restoration may take weeks.

"It's not a vacation anymore," said Gary Coombe, who brought his wife and two children to Florida from Geneva, Switzerland. "It's a frustration."

By bus and charter flights, thousands of tourists streamed out of Cancun, Mexico, after the resort city was pounded by Hurricane Wilma, but thousands more remained stranded Wednesday.

Thirty-four flights were planned from Cancun's badly-damaged airport Wednesday.

Some American tourists stuck in Mexico told CBS News correspondent Adrienne Bard the U.S. government didn't do enough to help.

"When you live in the largest, most powerful country in the world, you really would think that our government could get some military aircraft in here, swoop us up, and get us out of here," said Rodney Henson of Kentucky, who was still trying to get a flight out after six days.

New Yorker Phillip Garzon complained about the conditions in the shelter.

"We had four or five cots in our room. Everybody else has to sleep on the floor ... 43 in our room, and the room was about 30 by 20. We were sleeping on top of each other, literally," Garzon said.

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