The death toll in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley has climbed to at least 17 and state officials are warning people to take extra care as they try to put their homes and lives back together. The days following a storm can be even more dangerous than the storm itself.
Days after Hurricane Charley tore through Florida, the storm is still claiming victims, shell-shocked citizens perhaps not taking as much care, as they should are being electrocuted, dying in traffic crashes, and from other avoidable accidents.
Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings is begging people to be extra cautious.
“Safety is our foremost concern at this point. More people are killed after a storm than during the storm,” Jennings says.
The crisis is a nightmare for public health officials. State Health Secretary John Agwunobi says hospitals crippled by damage from Charley are being overwhelmed by people getting hurt trying to clean up.
“There have been a number of injuries associated with the use of chain saws and other pieces of machinery in the hands of individuals who perhaps are ill-qualified to do so.”
Roads clogged with debris and traffic is making it hard for emergency workers to get through. There is some good news. State roads and bridges weathered the storm very well. Only one state road so far is reported washed away.
Transportation Secretary Jose Abreu is scrambling to replace missing street signs that might also cause accidents.
“A lot of stop signs and traffic-type signs are out and we're fabricating as fast as we can to get them down there.”
In the meantime, state officials are asking people with minor injuries to go to clinics and save the 9-1-1 calls and emergency room trips for only the most serious injuries.
Health leaders are also urging people to take special care around generators. Generators cannot be used indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning has killed at least two people after a generator was left running indoors.
Officials are also warning people with existing health problems such as heart conditions to leave the cleanup work to friends and family and don't put themselves at risk.