Hurricane Wilma Strikes Florida; Airports Suffer Severe Damage

Key West International Airport had at least five feet of storm surge near the entrance and as many as three feet of water on the runway.

In West Palm Beach, bands of heavy winds arrived before dawn, cutting power to some of the city's oldest neighborhoods.

Following Frances and Jeanne last year, Wilma is the third storm to damage Palm Beach County. And, as in the rest of the state, residents are extremely tired of this sort of thing.

''I don't know how much more we can take,'' said Lowell Farber, owner of Seaside Shutters. ``This is good for business. But I don't want this anymore. People are scared.''

In Martin County along the East Coast, near where Wilma was forecast to reach the Atlantic around noon, the pre-dawn darkness brought swift gusts of warm damp air, seasoned occasionally with sprinkles of rain.

Wind whined in the massive communications tower above the emergency operations center. Underneath it, in a bunker banked with sod, emergency management workers watched the progress of the storm or prepared for the aftermath while others caught a few minutes of sleep -- preparing for a busy day.

In Palm Beach County, five shelters operated on generator power after the electricity failed.

About 5,000 people were staying in 17 Red Cross shelters as of 7 a.m. in Palm Beach County.

Herald staff writers Susan Anasagasti, Erika Bolstad, Therasa Bradley, Elinor J. Brecher, Cara Buckley, Marc Caputo, Lesley Clark, Manny Garcia, Carolyn Guniss, Monica Hatcher, Eric Kalis, Mary Ellen Klas, Phil Long, Tere Figueras Negrete, David Ovalle, Amy Sherman, Ben Torter, Nicole White and Dave Wilson contributed to this report.

Miami Herald

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