What Happened in South Florida
There was time, the forecast was accurate, so what happened in South Florida?
The first problem was that Wilma gathered strength before it hit the west coast and, because of the terrain, didn't weaken a great deal before hitting the east coast from the rear.
I have an old friend, a former Navy Air Boss, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens. He watched the storm pass over his house. He said that the storm was much more powerful than anticipated and the backside of the storm, with gusty winds, caused more damage than the front side.
Interstate 95, the main North-South artery was undercut by the storm, which created problems for deliveries coming in from the North.
Another major problem was the number of retired people who live in the area and have medical needs and limited mobility. The loss of power is trapping them in high-rise apartment buildings.
The quick recovery from previous storms in the area caused people to assume that things would be back to normal in a couple of days, so there was no need to sweat it. There were an amazing number of people who had generators, but hadn't bothered to buy more gas for them, assuming that what was in the tank from the last storm would be sufficient.
Given the number of people who are living from day to day in the area, it's not surprising that people panicked. When your day is structured around showing up at the labor pool in the morning to get enough to make it until the next day, you are in trouble when there's a hurricane.
The reality is that given the current level of poverty concentrated in urban areas, any time a major city is hit there are going to be these problems. Poor people do not have the resources to prepare or evacuate, all they can do is endure.