When Hurricane Irma hit mainland U.S. on Sunday, millions of residents were left without power — and the devastating effects could linger on for days.
The hurricane’s strong winds and heavy rain knocked down homes, roads and power lines, leaving 6 million without electricity in sweltering temperatures. As of Wednesday, more than 40 percent of Florida still lacked electricity and that could last for weeks, according to the Washington Post.
“We understand what it means to be in the dark,” Robert Gould, vice president and chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light (FPL), told the publication. “We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning. We will be restoring power day and night.
“This is going to be a very uncomfortable time.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNN: “After visiting shelters this week and talking to people who evacuated due to Hurricane Irma, the number one thing I heard from families is that they want their power back on.”
At this time, officials recommend not reporting power outages, as the damage is so widespread.
However, most Florida residents can check the status of power outages on this FPL power tracker. Officials from Florida Power & Light says residents on the west coast of Florida, where Hurricane Irma made landfall, will likely have power restored by September 22. And customers on the eastern side of Florida will hopefully have power restored by this weekend.
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As residents wait for their power to come back on, Ready.gov is providing some basic safety tips on what to do after a power outage.
- Only use flashlights for emergency lighting, candles can cause fires.
- In intense heat when the power may be off for a long time, consider going to a movie theater, shopping mall or “cooling shelter” that may be open in your community. If you remain at home, move to the lowest level of your home, since cool air falls. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
- An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
And Palm Beach Post has provided a list of “don’ts” for Floridians, here, including never operate a generator inside the home, adhere to boil-water orders and don’t ration bottled drinking water.
Palm City, Florida, resident Linda Oliver, who was without power for 3 days, says she and her neighbors thought of innovative ways to live in lieu of electricity.
“We collected water in buckets from a roof leak,” Oliver tells PEOPLE. “And we used that water to pour into the back of toilets to flush.”
She says her community has “really come together” in the aftermath of Irma.
“People are helping people and it’s heartwarming,” adds Oliver. “The storm mad friends family and strangers friends.
“We’ll get through this together.”
Wan to help Hurricane Irma victims? Here’s a list of ways to contribute.