Charley Response

Hurricane Charley may be long gone, but the initial devastation is being followed by rats, rotting food, mold and even the West Nile virus.

Florida officials say it’s still too early to really “grade” the state’s response to the hurricane.

The Florida Emergency Operations Center remains a beehive of activity as state officials deal with Charley’s aftermath. Several days of rotting food, leaking buildings, sewage runoff and puddles of standing water have opened the door to a health nightmare.

Dr. Agwunobi, Florida Health Secretary, says, “We are worried about vector-borne illnesses like West Nile. I’m told that after Andrew, there were significant problems with rodent infestation.”

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs is now talking about forcibly removing seniors who may still be holed up in damaged homes without power.

Terry White with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs says, “There’s mold and mildew. There’s going to be some respiratory issues that might pop up, so those are going to be the situations where we’re going to have to go in and hopefully coerce those folks to move to another facility.”

In a state where grades are a popular tool, Gov. Jeb Bush gives Florida officials an A-plus for effort in their response to Charley. Effectiveness is harder to gauge. Department of Community Affairs Secretary Thaddeus Cohen says it’s all relative.

“If you have been five days without a shower, without something to eat and your home’s been destroyed, no one’s particularly interested in what the grade is. What we are doing is we’re focusing on victims; we’re getting them the mass care that they need,” says Cohen.

With hundreds of thousands of people still without power, patience is likely to wear thin, if it hasn’t already. One hundred thousand cans of insect repellent have already been sent into the storm-damaged areas, with more on the way.