Trump tours Florida to survey Hurricane Irma recovery

President visits Naples, Fort Myers, hands out food to residents

By Associated Press , Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

FORT MYERS, Fla. - President Donald Trump will hear directly from people affected by Hurricane Irma's fury as he makes his third visit in less than three weeks to the storm-wracked South.

Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, was scheduled to visit Naples and Fort Myers on Florida's southwestern coast Thursday to meet with those affected by the hurricane and learn more about relief efforts.

Air Force One arrived in Fort Myers about 10:40 a.m. He was greeted on the tarmac by Gov. Rick Scott, attorney general Pam Bondi and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.

Trump handed out sandwiches and Vice President Mike Pence gave out bananas to people in a Florida mobile home community torn up by Hurricane Irma.

They were joined by first lady Melania Trump at Naples Estates, a mobile home community for people 55 and older. Around them were piles of debris, including tall piles of siding, furniture and branches.

The trio handed out food and posed for photos as people approached them. Most thanked them. One man yelled, "Make America Great Again!" Another told Trump that he "married well."

Trump pledged to be "there for you 100 percent."

The president monitored Irma over the weekend from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

Nearly half of Florida was engulfed by Irma, which left flooded streets, damaged homes and displaced residents in its wake. The Keys felt Irma's full fury when the hurricane roared in after wreaking devastation in the Caribbean, but the extent of the damage has been an unanswered question because some places have been unreachable.

Trump was touring the storm damage in Florida, where many remain swamped and without electricity. Nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses, about 1 in 4 Florida customers, remain without power.

Florida's southwestern coast is a haven for retirees seeking warm weather and beautiful sunsets across the Gulf of Mexico. Many communities there are still cleaning up or without power or air conditioning.

In Lee County, which includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, the Florida Emergency Management Agency said 66 percent of the area's 290,000 electrical customers were still without power Wednesday. Widespread outages led to long lines outside of the relatively few stores, gas stations and restaurants that had reopened.

The situation was even worse to the south in Collier County, where Naples is located. Days after Irma passed, almost 80 percent of homes and businesses were still without electricity there, and floodwaters still covered some communities entirely.

As of Wednesday, the number of people without electricity in Florida's late-summer heat was 6.8 million -- about a third of the state's population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. The number of people remaining in shelters fell to under 13,000.

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