WSVN — It has been nearly 10 years since a monster storm tore through South Florida, ripping apart buildings and flooding streets. Tonight, we look back. It’s a Nightteam special assignment report: "Remembering Wilma."
Storm-weary South Floridians watched as Wilma churned in the Caribbean. At one point, it hit Category 5 strength.
A day later, Wilma made landfall in Mexico as a Category 4. Then, picked up by a cold front, it set its eye on South Florida.
Phil Ferro: "Most of the winds are from the south-southwest."
Meteorologist: "All of South Florida will experience at least Category 1 hurricane conditions."
Wilma made landfall Monday, October 24th in Cape Ramano on the West Coast, and then sped across the Everglades.
Rosh Lowe: "All of a sudden, the winds started picking up."
Slamming South Florida with Category 2 strength winds.
Reporter: "It’s going to be a long night."
Twenty-five lives were lost.
Official: "This is a time of great emergency and, to some extent, tragedy."
South Florida was in for a long recovery.
Affected resident: "We’re watching docks ripped out. We are watching boats sinking, and this is our community, our friends and we’ve lost it all."
Once 7Skyforce got up in the air, the extent of damage was shocking.
Ralph Rayburn: "That’s the School Board building. You can see again lots of glass to be replaced."
From Downtown Fort Lauderdale to Downtown Miami, high-rises had no windows. Homes had no roofs.
Man: "It’s just unbelievable, it’s devastating."
Roads were flooded and blocked, boats were blown clean out of the water, and building after building was reduced to rubble.
Woman (crying): "Where am I going to sleep at tonight? Where am I going to sleep at tomorrow? Where am I going to lay my head at for the rest of the month?"
Even if your home survived the wind, you lost.
Woman: "No power, no light. I can’t cook. I can’t take a shower. I can’t do nothing."
Six million people had no power. Grocery stores were forced to close with food rotting on shelves.
Gas stations had no way to pump gas. And the stations that were open had lines that stretched for miles. Fights broke out. Police were called in to maintain order.
Tempers also flared at water and ice distribution sites
Woman (crying): "If you’ve been waiting in line for five hours and you see somebody just walk in front of you, how are you going to feel?"
People struggled to take care of their families as the power outages stretched on. For some, more than three weeks.
Man: "It’s aggravating."
But even as the lights came on, hopes began to dim for those left homeless by the storm. Hundreds of buildings were declared unsafe.
Fannie Redman: "Half of us have nowhere to go. I have an animal. I have nowhere to put the animal. This is not right for us."
Families with young children were among the thousands of people forced into Red Cross shelters because they could find nowhere to live.
Eventually, the debris was cleared as people vowed to rebuild. But recovering from Wilma’s wrath took years.
One of the hardest and longest recovery efforts for Wilma was FPL. The company spent nearly $2 billion to repair damages and even more to harden its system against future storms. We’ll have that story Thursday night at 10.