FORT PIERCE, Fla. – The search for ice, water and food for millions of hot and weary Floridians overshadowed a visit Wednesday by President Bush (search), who promised more aid for the state pummeled by back-to-back hurricanes.
Christine Jones, a Fort Pierce (search) teacher who's been without power since Saturday, was searching for a tarp to cover her damaged roof and some hot meals for her family.
"Oh Lord, if I see that man, I'm going to say 'Look at me. I'm miserable.' We're all too miserable right now to worry about something like that," she said of Bush's visit.
Bush toured the area by helicopter, met with relief workers in Fort Pierce and visited the National Hurricane Center (search) in Miami. With temperatures around 90 at early afternoon, Bush handed out bags of ice and cases of water and chatted with people driving up to an emergency distribution center in Fort Pierce.
"Once again, Florida has faced the devastation of a hurricane and once again the people of Florida are showing their character and their strength and their deep concern for their neighbors," Bush said.
By Wednesday, traffic from returning evacuees subsided on major highways and the long lines for gas shortened, though some drivers still had to wait up to an hour to fill up.
About 3 million Floridians remained without power as utility workers began repairing thousands of downed lines and blown transformers. It could be early next week before power is restored statewide.
In Washington, Bush signed a $2 billion disaster relief package for victims of both Frances and Charley, which caused an estimated $6.8 billion in damages in southwest Florida last month and was blamed for 27 deaths.
Frances left an estimated at $2 billion to $4 billion in insured damages and left 13 dead in the state.
The storm struck a wide stretch of Florida's east coast early Sunday with winds of 105 mph and more than 13 inches of rain, peeling off roofs and flooding streets.
The emergency money approved by Bush would provide direct aid for families, debris removal, repairs and emergency food and shelter, which has been a critical need for residents returning to battered homes.
Tameki Reese, a mother of five, said her family moved in with another family after her roof caved and allowed torrential rains into their Fort Pierce home. She said about 20 people are now getting by in a single house without water or power, and "it ain't good."
If Bush is "going to help get Fort Pierce get back real fast, then that's great. But so far, I've only seen them moving so slow," she said.
Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, assured Floridians that the state and federal governments are sending a "massive amount of support," but added that "it's a logistical challenge that people have to keep in perspective. It isn't going to be done overnight."
Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell said "we need more of everything" at the county's emergency distribution centers, where thousands of people have come for ice and water. He also said there was a problem with getting enough trucks in because of fuel shortages.
The governor toured the Port of Tampa Wednesday morning and received a briefing on the efforts to replenish fuel supplies. He later joined his brother in Fort Pierce and helped hand out ice.
As relief efforts continued in Florida, officials were keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Ivan, which could threaten Florida by early next week.