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Lauderdale boat show postponed indefinitely

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show has been postponed until further notice after a stronger-than-expected Hurricane Wilma pummeled South Florida, the Show Management office said Tuesday.

Officials say Wilma was the worst hurricane to hit the area in 50 years.

A Category 3 with 115 mph winds, the hurricane on Monday crashed into the southwestern coast then raced toward Miami-Dade and Broward counties on the state’s Atlantic coast, ripping off roofs, flooding streets and knocking down power lines. Local sources say the area is devastated.

Reached Tuesday morning by cell phone, show organizer Kaye Pearson says crews started clean-up efforts at the show site Monday afternoon after the fast-moving Wilma went offshore. Pearson had planned to make an announcement later today, but around noontime the show office was advising callers that the show had been postponed. A temporary show office has been set up in a trailer on site, which is equipped with six working telephone lines. The number to call for information is (954) 527-9332.

Show Management’s Web site was not operational Tuesday, but information also will be posted on the county’s Web site,, according to Margaret Stapleton of Broward County Emergency Operations Center. The show last week was postponed from Wednesday until Saturday in anticipation of the storm. Even if the show goes on, several related events have been cancelled.

The area’s major airports — Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood and Miami International — are closed until further notice. Even when the airports are opened, travelers are advised to contact their airlines, since some flights might not be operating.

Some 6 million customers are without power and officials say it could be four weeks before all power is restored. Many communities are without water. The city of Fort Lauderdale is under a boil water restriction.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has issued a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew until further notice. Miami-Dade county residents have an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Other communities have curfews as well, and Coral Springs also has a ban on alcohol sales until further notice.

Most schools and businesses are closed. The Fort Lauderdale beach was closed Tuesday.

Broward County officials say that recovery is a priority. Some 15 sites have been designated as distribution points for water, ice and tarps. Emergency management officials are urging residents to stay off the roadways while cleanup crews remove debris from the street. Traffic signals are without power and crews are working to clear debris from the streets.

President Bush on Monday declared parts of Florida a major disaster area, paving the way for federal funds to help with clean-up efforts.

— JoAnn W. Goddard