The census data has bad news for Black and Latinx Americans


The census data has bad news for Black and Latinx Americans

Across the country families are getting wealthier, but rosy coverage of new census figures is hiding an alarming fact.

E.A. Crunden        September 13, 2017 AP Photo/David Goldman

New Census Bureau data shows an increasingly optimistic picture for white Americans — but far less so for Americans of color, many of whom still face stark income disparities.

Released Tuesday, the numbers appear to show good news across the board in several key areas. Median household income in the United States in 2016 was $59,039 — a more than three percent rise from 2015 and the highest ever recorded. Poverty also saw a dip, as did the number of people without health insurance. The Census Bureau said that data reflects both a return to pre-recession levels, with 2.5 million people no longer living in poverty, and a precarious drop in the number of uninsured Americans, now around 8.8 percent of the population.

But the figures also show a grim reality. While white families now earn an average income of around $65,041, that picture is far less rosy for other racial demographics. Hispanic families earn around $47,675 — considerably lower than the over-arching average, $59,039. Worse off are Black families, who earn a median of $39,490, more than $25,000 less than their white counterparts. (The top earners, bringing in around $81,431 per year, are families identified as Asian, a broad demographic including those with origins across much of the Asian continent but outside of the Middle East.) Those numbers are despite the fact that medians for both Black and Hispanic households grew at twice the rate of white households in 2016.

The Census Bureau told ThinkProgress that no reason could be given for the gaps, and commentary could only be offered on the figures and trends. But experts and economists highlighted the data on social media, pointing to the numbers as a disconcerting sign that the figures reinforce income inequality in a damning way, one that also cuts along gendered lines. Janelle Jones, an economic analyst with the Economic Policy Institute, noted on Twitter that “earnings actually DECREASED for black women and Latinas” while they rose for white women (women of all races are still out-earned significantly by their male counterparts):

While the figures alone are striking, they aren’t the only indicator that the United States has a severe economic inequality issue. According to a new study by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, wealth trends for Black and Latinx families are dwindling, even as the United States becomes increasingly less white demographically. If the study is correct, the median wealth for Black families will be $0 by 2053; two decades later, Latinx families are expected to reach the same number.

“While households of color are projected to reach majority status by 2043, if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed, median Black household wealth is on a path to hit zero by 2053 and median Latino household wealth is projected to hit zero twenty years later,” the report’s key findings note. “In sharp contrast, median White household wealth would climb to $137,000 by 2053.”

Related: Census data confirms connection between Obamacare and record-low uninsured rate. But states that did not embrace ACA provisions continue to see higher uninsured rates.

Wealth is about more than income — assets and ownership are an important component of how wealth is determined. But the study still points at an increasingly pressing issue. Projections indicate the United States will be majority non-white by 2044; if trends continue as they are now, that could mean serious repercussions for the U.S. economy, which will suffer along with many communities of color.

This is all part of an enduring legacy, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, a senior fellow at Prosperity Now, told The Guardian.

“The middle class didn’t just happen by market forces, and the whiteness of the middle class didn’t just happen by market forces,” he said. “Both were intentional.”

Interpretations of Tuesday’s census figures have in many ways overlooked this reality. With much of U.S. focus directed on the country’s middle class, any growth within that group is seen as positive. But for Black and Latinx people, the story becomes more complicated, both because they are paid less than white counterparts, and because white families are more likely to have access to pre-existing wealth and assets.

“You find first-generation, even second-generation African-American and Latino households that have professional jobs and are making ‘middle-income money’ – but they have the wealth of a white high-school dropout,” said Asante-Muhammad. “They’re not truly part of a middle class – which would mean financial stability, money to weather challenging economic situations, or money to invest in the economic opportunities of their children.”

That reality is one that might not be addressed any time soon. In addition to reinforcing pre-existing racial income inequality, census figures also point at another jarring trend — the rich are getting richer more generally, while the poorest households have an even smaller income than before. That’s not a good sign for Americans of color already at a disadvantage, or a positive sign that dramatic shifts could be coming.

Even those welcoming the census data were quick to note that the figures reflect a reality prior to the election of President Donald Trump. The president’s policy proposals, which aim to roll back things like food stamp funding, and wide-scale legislative efforts, like unraveling the Affordable Care Act, could have a dramatic impact on the growth measured in 2016.

That’s something Americans should watch out for, Peter Atwater, president of Financial Insyghts, told the Washington Post.

“There’s a danger that this is as good as it gets,” he said.

While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science.


While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science.

Extreme Weather Pounding the Globe and Trump Attacks Scientists

While the world is being bombarded by extreme weather events, the Trump administration is attacking scientists and known science. #ClimateChange

Posted by DeSmogBlog on Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meet the man on a crusade to clean up the worlds most polluted river.


Meet the man on a crusade to clean up the world's most polluted river. Read more: via Make A Change World #PlasticBottleCitarum

Posted by EcoWatch on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Meet the Brothers Kayaking Down the World’s Most Polluted River

By Gary Bencheghib and Sam Bencheghib

Super cool!Sam Bencheghib and Gary Bencheghib are about to travel down the world's most polluted river on a plastic bottle kayak to bring awareness to the world's plastic pollution crisis. Read more about the world's plastics crisis: Make A Change World #PlasticBottleCitarum

Posted by EcoWatch on Saturday, August 12, 2017

We have all heard about the accumulation of plastic pollution in our ocean and the devastating effects it is having on marine life, but very little has been done to stop the plastic from its source.

With more than 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originating from rivers and streams, we have decided to create a shocking visual of the world’s most polluted river, the Citarum in Indonesia, by kayaking down it on two plastic bottle kayaks made from repurposed trash.

We launched Plastic Bottle Citarum to help make people think about the dangers that pollution has on human health. Located in West Java, the Citarum river is the water source for 15 million people for drinking, cooking and bathing.

The two kayaks we are paddling were built by the bamboo experts, EWABI. Each kayak has a bamboo frame and is filled with 300 plastic bottles to keep us afloat, which were collected by our partner, EcoBali, from school groups and waste facilities.

The goal of the expedition is to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and to inspire positive change by documenting some of the incredible and innovative efforts that are fighting the plastic epidemic in Indonesia.

During our expedition, we will be producing a series of five short videos documenting our descent down the river and highlighting the change-makers living on the river who dedicate their lives to cleaning up the Citarum and educating the local community on the impacts of pollution.

Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram.

India is Building Roads From Plastic Waste


Rolling down the plastic highway.

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin

Associated Press

Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin

Jay Reeves, Associated Press,      September 14, 2017

IMMOKALEE, Fla. (AP) — Larry and Elida Dimas didn’t have much to begin with, and Hurricane Irma left them with even less.

The storm peeled open the roof of the old mobile home where they live with their 18-year-old twins, and it destroyed another one they rented to migrant workers in Immokalee, one of Florida’s poorest communities. Someone from the government already has promised aid, but Dimas’ chin quivers at the thought of accepting it.

“I don’t want the help,” said Dimas, 55. “But I need it.”

Dimas is one of millions of Floridians who live in poverty, and an untold number of them have seen their lives up-ended by Irma. Their options, already limited, were narrowed even further when the hurricane destroyed possessions, increased expenses and knocked them out of work.

Not far from Dimas in impoverished Immokalee, located on the edge of the Everglades, Haitian immigrant Woodchy Darius, a junior at Immokalee High School, must decide whether to return to class when school reopens or head to the fields to pick berries once the land is dry enough to work again.

“The rent is $375, and if I don’t have the money they’ll kick us out,” said Darius, 17. He lives in a grubby apartment building with bare concrete floors, burglar-proof doors and cinder-block walls that make it resemble a jail more than home.

The Census Bureau estimates about 3.3 million people live in poverty in Florida — nearly 16 percent of the state’s 20.6 million population. For them, the amusement parks of Orlando or President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach might as well be on Mars.

Many work by the hour in restaurants, gas stations, hotels, stores and other businesses forced to close for days after Irma, depriving them of paychecks. Others are day laborers or migrants who earn money by the pound picking produce that’s sold in stores nationwide. Still others are retirees on fixed incomes or disability checks whose budgets already were tight before Irma.

Fleeing Irma wasn’t an option for those who lacked transportation to get to a shelter, couldn’t afford gas to drive north and couldn’t rent a hotel room. The likely costs associated with cleaning up or finding a new place to live pushed them closer to the edge than ever.

After Irma, Gwen Bush scrambled to find a place just to sleep after flood waters rose around her home.

A security worker for Amway Center in Orlando, Bush hadn’t worked in the days leading up to Irma because concerts and other events had been canceled as the storm approached. It’s not certain when the arena will be open for business, and she was down to her final $10 before the storm.

“I’ve been through some hurricanes and some storms living here but I can say on my life this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Bush, 50, a lifelong resident of Orlando. “How do you recover from this, losing all of your stuff?”

David and Andrea Jewell survive on disability checks and live on a sailboat they bought for $1,000 on eBay years ago. David Jewell, 51, can’t imagine now living on land; both consider the ocean — like the dolphins they watch — their only real neighbors.

After the storm, the Jewells stayed on cots in the gym at a community center in Jacksonville. They tried to figure out if they could get a new boat if theirs was destroyed. Maybe, they decided, they could just cut back on food and find another cheap one with their next disability checks.

“There aren’t any answers,” he said, “so I guess I’ll have to roll with it.”

But in one bit of good news, they later learned from a friend that their boat is still floating.

For some poor people, there’s at least a little upside to the devastation.

Guatemalan immigrant Aura Gaspar totaled up storm-related expenses of about $600 while using a twig-fired grill to stew chicken on her front stoop in Immokalee; she has three school-age children to feed and a 2-week-old baby.

But Gaspar said husband Juan Francisco got a job cleaning up storm debris in the Fort Myers and Naples area. He needed to get busy, she said through a translator: Their storm preparations cost nearly twice as much as his weekly pay of $320.

“We had to prepare the house so it would protect us,” said Gaspar, 28.

Beside his ruined Immokalee mobile home, Dimas is trying to get back on his feet, but it’s tough.

Dimas earns a meager living cooking hamburgers and chicken in a food truck parked by his home, and some customers already have returned — he said he sold all 40 of the hamburgers that were still safe to cook Tuesday.

Dimas needs to replace the income from his rental trailer, already condemned after being split open by the wind. Dimas had used that money to help feed his two teenagers and pay for the rescue inhalers he needs for his asthma. Losing it will only make it harder for Dimas to do what he says is one of his favorite things — providing free or cut-rate food to those who have even less.

Coping with Irma’s aftermath is only making life tougher for people with little who live in places including unincorporated Immokalee, said Dimas.

“A lot of people work. They work hard here. They don’t ask for nothing. They just go to work, come home and something like this happens, it’s ….,” Dimas said. “I don’t know what to say.”

He stopped talking and turned away to keep from crying.

Associated Press writers Terrance Harris in Orlando and Claire Galofaro in Jacksonville contributed to this report.

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Mars Inc. Promises $1 Billion Investment in Climate Change and Sustainable Supply Chain

TriplePundit….people, planet, profit

Mars Inc. Promises $1 Billion Investment in Climate Change and Sustainable Supply Chain

by Leon Kaye, Climate and Environment        September 7, 2017 & M&Ms North American Headquarters  J Stephen Conn, Flickr

As the current presidential administration seeks to reverse all and any policies enacted during the Obama years, businesses have made it clear that they will fill in the vacuum, whether the problems are related to immigration, race relations or climate change. The questions that arise, of course, include: just how big are these challenges and are they even remotely achievable?

To that end, Grant Reid, CEO of the food giant Mars Inc., has stepped into the climate debate with a warning to the business community that turning away from the Paris global climate agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been “nowhere near enough.” Reid made his comments as business and government leaders arrive in New York for the UN’s General Assembly and Climate Week.

Reid and Mars say they are backing up their words with action as the company promises to invest approximately $1 billion in its “Sustainable in a Generation Plan.” The program lasers in on three areas where the $33 billion says it can foster the changes Reid says are necessary on some of the world’s largest challenges, as defined by the SDGs. In sum, Mars says its evolved sustainability agenda is about people, the planet and . . . people’s health.

When it comes to the planet, Mars’ focus on environmental sustainability is hardly new. In recent years, the company insists it has bolstered its anti-deforestation policy, while  its United Kingdom operations reportedly run 100 percent on clean energy technologies such as wind power. On this side of the pond, Mars says its renewables portfolio in the U.S. is now enough to offset the company’s power needs to make all of its M&M’s in the U.S. And in the next several years, Mars says it will focus even more on issues such as climate action, water stewardship and land management. Furthermore, the company has a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its entire value chain by 67 percent by 2050 – a considerable expansion of its GHG goals made in previous years.

Like any multinational, Mars has a complicated supply chain that crosses many borders. The company said it is working on fine-tuning the traceability of many of its ingredients, including palm oil and cacao. Now Mars says it will build upon its efforts to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by including one million people in its long term plan to boost incomes, improve its human rights performance and open up more opportunities for women. Examples of this work include the launch of the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming to accelerate sustainability and poverty reduction across its supply chains as well as the Farmer Income Lab, which the company describes as a “think-do tank” focused on eradicating smallholder poverty.

Finally, Mars is working on widening its portfolio of more nourishing foods. Its “Nourishing Wellbeing” program seeks to integrate science, innovation and marketing in an attempt to reach out to billions of people – and incidentally, their pets as well. This builds upon the company’s efforts on what it says are a focus on food safety and security.

In a public statement, Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability and Health and Wellbeing Officer of Mars said:

“We know we cannot grow and prosper unless the planet, people and communities on which we rely are healthy and thriving. Doing what’s right, not just doing better, is at the very core of our new plan. It’s about pushing the boundaries and extending our bold ambitions across our extended supply chain. When we do that, and when others join us, only then will we have the greatest impact.”

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site,


Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe


Map: where Western wildfires have made the air outside too dangerous to breathe

Particulates from smoke have drastically impacted air quality in areas of several states.

by Casey Miller and Umair Irfan    September 13, 2017

Unusually bad wildfires have been blazing in the Western United States, leaving areas across Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wyoming choking on harmful levels of smoke and shrouded in a cloudy haze.

Fire officials anticipate some relief this week as a weather system is expected to bring rain to some of the smoldering states. But the fires will also continue to burn through dry woodlands.

A map of large fires across the United States National Interagency Fire Center

“We’re expecting another day or two of warm conditions that could keep the fires a little bit active, particularly across the Northwest and the Rockies, and also some breezy conditions in Montana that are pushing fires around,” said Ed Delgado, the national program manager for predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center.

On Tuesday, NIFC was reporting 62 large fires across nine Western states that had already taken more than 1.6 million acres. And 2017 is on track to be one of the worst years for wildfires in the US on record, with a total of 8.1 million acres burned as of September 12 — already well above the annual to-date average of 6 million acres for the past decade.

For residents of some areas of California, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Montana, the worst threat from the fires is lingering poor air quality that may take up to a week to disperse. You can use this map to zoom in on which towns have it worst.

 -   AirNow

The Environmental Protection Agency measures the harm from wildfires with its Air Quality Index, as shown here.

The math is a little convoluted, but the index allows regulators to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health risks across different pollutants like ozone and sulfur dioxide.

The six categories for the Air Quality Index range from “good” (“It’s a great day to be outside.”) to “hazardous” (“Avoid all physical activity outdoors.”). As you can see, air in some parts of Montana has reached that worst-case, “hazardous” level.

Unfortunately, smoke from wildfires poses a threat even in small quantities, and can cause harm even to people hundreds of miles away from the nearest flames.

Wildfires can loft bits of dust and carbon into the jet stream, but health hazards emerge when the local weather conditions bring these particles back down to ground level, which is why specific local air quality monitoring and forecasts are so important.

The smallest particles are the biggest concern.

EPA regulates PM2.5, which refers to particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. Wildfires directly create these particles as they torch plains and forests.

“Generally, we think that the smaller it is, the more likely it is to make you sick,” said Jia Coco Liu, a postdoctoral researcher studying air quality after disasters at Johns Hopkins University.

These particles penetrate deep into lungs causing inflammation, asthma attacks, and over the long-term, cancer.

Even in tiny concentrations, measured in micrograms per cubic meter, particulates can increase visits to the emergency room, especially for the elderly and people with chronic breathing problems.

“My research shows that when pollution is very high, over 37 [micrograms per cubic meter], we start to see health consequences,” Liu said.

Officials don’t have many options to help people get fresh air under smoke and haze. “Other than staying indoors, it’s pretty hard to do, because you can’t stop breathing,” Liu said.

Overall, this fire season is far worse than officials expected. “We had a very wet winter and spring, but that was pretty much erased in July when we had a very strong heat wave in the West that dried this out very, very quickly,” Delgado said.

As average temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, health officials are bracing for more wildfires scorching wider swaths of Western lands, leading to more coughing, wheezing, heart attacks, and deaths.

But on Tuesday fire officials had at least some good news to share for the regions blanketed by smoke: Almost half of ongoing wildfires didn’t gain any ground yesterday.

“Basically, it’s late in the year, so generally we’re in the wind-down mode,” Delgado added.

Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags


Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags Ken James/Bloomberg

By Ari Natter       September 12, 2017

From Climate Changed

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that former President Barack Obama’s goal of slashing the cost of solar power has been achieved early, taking credit for milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power.

“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, the Energy Department’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Simmons previously worked for the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research and has said that solar and wind “is more expensive and will increase the price of electricity.” The group called for the abolition of the office Simmons now heads. And President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal called for cutting solar energy funding within the Energy Department by 71 percent to $70 million.

The Energy Department announced that the average price of utility-scale solar dropped to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which Obama had set in 2011 as the goal for his “SunShot” program. That program, which provided research funding and other support aimed to reduce the total cost of photovoltaic energy by 75 percent by 2020.

“I don’t know why they are touting it,” Jack Spencer, vice president of the Heritage Foundation and a former member of Trump’s Energy Department transition team, said in a phone interview. “I think it should be abolished right away as should all government subsidies.”

Instead, the department announced $82 million in new funding for solar research, with the majority directed toward concentrating solar, which uses mirrors instead of solar panels. And Trump’s team has set a new solar goal of its own: lowering the cost of utility-scale solar power further, to 3 cents by 2030.

“As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy,” Simmons said.

The Energy Department press office didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Texas couple takes wedding photos in Harvey debris, will donate $5K wedding reception funds to people affected

Shellie Schoellkopf and Robert Callaway, both Houston natives, planned to hold their wedding reception next month for 150 guests at a restaurant in downtown Houston. Then, Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit Texas in over a decade, happened.

After Irma, Florida prepares for days — and maybe weeks — without power

Washington Post

After Irma, Florida prepares for days — and maybe weeks — without power

Patricia Sullivan, Mark Berman and Katie Zezima     September 12, 2017

Irma leaves millions of Florida residents without electricity of Tuesday, Sept. 12, millions of Florida residents were still without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Here’s a look at the areas hit hardest by outages. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Millions of Floridians grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, confronting a sweltering reality: Nearly half of Florida still lacked electricity, and for some of them, the lights might not come back on for days or even weeks.

“We understand what it means to be in the dark,” said Robert Gould, vice president and chief communications officer for Florida Power and Light (FPL), the state’s largest utility. “We understand what it means to be hot and without air conditioning. We will be restoring power day and night.”

But, he acknowledged: “This is going to be a very uncomfortable time.”

Across the nation’s third most-populous state, that discomfort played out in homes that were silent without the usual thrum of perpetual air-conditioning. It meant refrigerators were unable to cool milk, laundry machines were unable to clean clothes and, for the particularly young and old, potential danger in a state where the temperatures can range from warm to stifling.

Even for those who had power, some also were struggling to maintain cellphone service or Internet access, sending Floridians into tree-riddled streets in an effort to spot a few precious bars of signal to contact loved ones.

“It’s a mess, a real mess. The biggest issue is power,” said Bill Barnett, mayor of Naples, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “We just need power. It’s 92 degrees and the sun is out and it’s smoking out there.”

Utility companies made progress as they undertook a massive recovery effort, restoring power to some. At its peak, the Department of Homeland Security said about 15 million Floridians — an astonishing three out of four state residents — lacked power.

Throughout the day Tuesday, state officials gradually lowered the number of customers without power, dropping it to 4.7 million by Tuesday evening from 6.5 million a day earlier. Because each power company account can represent multiple people, the sheer number of residents without electricity was massive: Going by the Homeland Security estimates, at one point Irma had knocked out power to one out of every 22 Americans.

It would take some time before all of them had electricity again. Duke Energy Florida said it would restore power to most customers by Sunday, a week after Irma made its first landfall in Florida. Some harder-hit areas could take longer due to the rebuilding effort.

Gould said that FPL, which powers about half of the state, expected customers on Florida’s East Coast to have power back by the end of the weekend. People in western Florida, closer to Irma’s path, should have it back by Sept. 22. That estimate does not include places with severe flooding or tornado damage, he said, and those areas could also face a longer wait to be able to switch on the lights.

As Irma swept in, concern about a child, a respirator, and a battery

17-month-old Lena was born with a defective diaphragm and needs a ventilator to breathe. Her family moved across the country in 2016 so she could get the best care available, and only recently settled into their own apartment after almost a year spent in the hospital. But Hurricane as Irma moved in, they took shelter back at the hospital, knowing a power cut could endanger Lena’s life.

Floridians reacted to the outages eclectically. Some welcomed the absence of perpetual air-conditioners. Others flocked to their local malls for a respite from the heat.

“There’s no power at home, so we might as well just stay here and stay cool,” Amanda Brack, who was with her son, Gavin, said while walking through a Brookstone at the Galleria shopping mall in Fort Lauderdale.

Blake Deerhog had walked to the mall from his powerless and steamy apartment in nearby Victoria Park, trekking some 20 minutes in the stifling heat and humidity after he Googled and learned it would be open.

“This is definitely better than being back at my apartment,” he said, adding that he planned to spend the afternoon there.

The outages also caused rising alarm in some places. Here in Cape Coral, an assisted care facility for patients with dementia and memory impairment that sheltered in place during the storm went without power for three days, as elderly patients suffered in the rising heat.

The southwest Florida facility, Cape Coral Shores, had 20 patients stay during the storm as part of an agreement with state and local officials because the emergency shelters it would normally use were both evacuated as Irma approached. Power at the facility went out, and it stayed out, even as homes and businesses all around it saw their lights come back on.

As the indoor temperature climbed to the mid-80s Wednesday morning, humidity made the hard-surfaced floors slick with condensation. Patients gathered in a small day room to catch a slight breeze from screened windows. A handful of small fans powered by a borrowed generator were all that kept the situation from devolving into a medical emergency, said Dan Nelson, Cape Coral Shores’ chief operating officer.

“People here are fragile,” Nelson said, adding that air-conditioning in such facilities is a medical necessity. “This is not just about comfort, it’s about safety. We have magnet door locks that don’t work, fire suppression equipment whose batteries have run out, assisted bed lifts that don’t work. And the temperatures today and tomorrow are headed back to the mid-90s.”

A state emergency official said Wednesday afternoon he had found a large generator and 50 gallons of gas for the facility, but there was no need: The power came back on.

While the Sunshine State was the hardest hit by the outages, they extended to the other states Irma raked as it headed north. Hundreds of thousands lost power in the Carolinas, Alabama and Georgia, where at one point 800,000 were experiencing outages on Tuesday, though that number declined during the day.

The deteriorating storm once known as Hurricane Irma — classified Tuesday as a post-tropical cyclone — grazed onward through the Mississippi Valley, losing essentially all of its prior strength but still drenching some areas with rainfall.

Across the southeast, even as people acknowledged that they had dodged the worst possible hit from Irma, they were still left to contend with destroyed homes, flooded cities, swollen rivers, canceled flights and debris in the streets.

The city of Jacksonville, Fla., remained flooded after the St. Johns River overflowed so severely the day before that it forced residents from their homes. Charleston, S.C., city officials said the intense flooding there on Monday closed more than 111 roads, most of which had reopened Tuesday.

Authorities said they were investigating several fatalities that came since the storm made landfall, though it was not clear how many were directly due to the storm.

Among them were a 51-year-old man in Winter Park, Fla., outside Orlando, who police said was apparently electrocuted by a downed power line in a roadway. In Georgia, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said a 67-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell on her car; the mayor of Sandy Springs said a 55-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on the bedroom where he was sleeping. In other cases, fatal car crashes claimed lives as the storm loomed.

[Why Irma wasn’t far worse]

In Key West, it remained unclear when power, cellphone service or supplies would be available again.

“What you have on hand is rationed to make sure you can get through,” said Todd Palenchar, 48, noting that his supplies of food and water are designed to last for a week. “You don’t know how long it’s going to be.”

Palenchar said he is used to camping and roughing it, but his main concern right now is his property.
“I’ve already posted signs where I’m at, ‘Looters will be shot, no questions asked,'” he said as he pulled up his shirt to reveal a .380 caliber pistol.

As Irma tore through the Caribbean and approached the Keys last week, authorities had ordered millions in Florida to evacuate and, in some cases, ordered them to hit the road again as the storm’s path wobbled. On Tuesday, officials slowly began letting those people return home.

In Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, and other places that let residents back, officials warned that many areas are still without power, cellphone reception is questionable and most gas stations remain shut.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said about half of the county’s traffic signals were out. Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief said the number was closer to 45 percent of traffic signals there. Across the state, the explanations for the outages were visible alongside the road.

“It’s a lot of trees and power lines and snapped poles,” said Kate Albers, a spokeswoman for Collier County, which stretches across southwestern Florida and includes Marco Island, where Irma made her second landfall.

“I can tell you from driving around you see lines down all over the place,” Albers said. “You see trees thrown through power lines and you’ll see an occasional pole.”

The high number of outages across Florida were due largely to the storm’s massive size, said Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida.

“For a significant period of time, the entire state was under a hurricane warning,” Kury said. “Normally it comes through, sometimes it comes through fast and sometimes it comes through slowly. But this one hit pretty much everybody.”

White House warns Florida that power could be out for ‘coming weeks’

With millions in Florida without electricity, White House national security adviser Tom Bossert described “the largest ever mobilization of line restoration workers in this country” on Sept. 11, but cautioned that power could be down in homes for weeks.

Kury was among those who did not lose power but did lose Internet, cable and cellphone service, so he and his wife had to walk to the next development before his wife got enough signal to text their oldest son and her parents.

Storms that rip down power lines are frequently followed by questions about why more power lines are not buried underground, away from punishing winds.

Cost is one factor. A 2012 report for the Edison Electric Institute, a trade association representing investor-owned electrical utilities, found that it can be five to 10 times more expensive to put lines underground — otherwise known as “undergrounding” — than to hang them overhead.

The utilities also weigh issues such as how much cost they can pass on to their customers and the aesthetics of overhead wires, Kury said, noting that there is no uniform policy for power companies because diverse regions have different needs.

“It’s kind of a misstatement when folks say undergrounding power lines protects them from damage,” Kury said. “What it really does is insulates them from damage from wind events and flying debris. But it makes them more susceptible to things like flooding and things like storm surge.”

He added: “If you’re in an area where your biggest risk to the infrastructure is storm surge and flooding, putting the lines underground can actually make them more susceptible to damage and not less.”

Florida utility companies embarked upon a massive response effort to get the lights back on. Gould, the spokesman for FPL, said the company had dispatched 20,000 workers to work day and night restoring power, first to critical care infrastructure — like hospitals and 911 systems — and then to feeders that send juice to the most customers. Finally, they get to individual neighborhoods.

In St. Petersburg, where gas-powered generators had growled through the night, residents lit their way with battery-powered lanterns, flashlights and tea lights.

“We’ve run out of power before,” said Jeanne Isacco, 71, reaching for her walker to stand and punctuate her point. “Why do you think we live here? Excuse me! We know it’s hot.”

Berman and Zezima reported from Washington. Darryl Fears in St. Petersburg, Leonard Shapiro in Fort Lauderdale, Camille Pendley in Atlanta, Dustin Waters in Charleston, Kirk Ross in Raleigh, Scott Unger in Key West, Fla., and Brian Murphy, Angela Fritz and Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report, which was updated throughout the day.