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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
July 5, 2006

Rapid Needs Assessment of Two Rural Communities After Hurricane Wilma—Hendry County, Florida, November 1-2, 2005

JAMA. 2006;296(1):34-36. doi:10.1001/jama.296.1.34

MMWR. 2006;55:429-431

1 table omitted

On October 24, 2005, Hurricane Wilma, the most intense hurricane (882 mb) ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin, made landfall on the southern tip of Florida.1 By landfall, Wilma had been downgraded from a Category 5 (i.e., winds of ≥156 mph) to a Category 3 hurricane but still contained winds of >110 mph. The storm moved slowly over the Florida Keys and south Florida, causing extensive wind and flood damage to homes and businesses. Approximately 3 million households were left without power, and thousands of residents were displaced to temporary shelters; 10 deaths were storm related.2 On October 27, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) asked CDC and the North Carolina Division of Public Health (NCDPH) for assistance in performing a rapid needs assessment of communities most affected by the storm. On the basis of information from local public health officials, field assessment teams, and electric power companies, FDOH identified Hendry County, a rural county with a 2000 population of 36,210, as the most severely affected area. Two Hendry County communities, Montura Ranch Estates and Pioneer Plantation in the town of Clewiston (pop. 6,460), were of particular concern. According to the 2000 census, nearly 20% of Clewiston residents lived below the poverty level.3 The assessment determined that approximately one third of households also had been affected by at least one other hurricane that preceded Wilma during 2004 and 2005. More than half of the households surveyed lived in homes that were damaged but still habitable, and 10% of households in Montura Ranch Estates reported their homes as uninhabitable; approximately 73% of households had not received information about how to remain safe during clean-up activities. Results of the assessment were immediately provided to the Hendry County Emergency Operations Center, Hendry County Health Department, and FDOH for allocation of resources to help these communities recover from the hurricane.