Central Floridians sitting in dark, hot houses trying to watch the Olympics on 4-inch, battery-powered televisions can't even take solace that they're helping to prevent the next devastating hurricane.
In other words, global warming -- caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels -- probably had nothing to do with Hurricane Charley's intensity.
That comes as an answer to one of the many questions from Central Florida residents trying to cope with Charley's aftermath. Here are answers to that and a few more questions, ranging from trash pickup to utility bills:
Question: Global warming is real, but did it add to Charley's fury?
Answer: "No, I think no one is talking along those lines," said T.N. Krishnamurti, a professor of meteorology at Florida State University. The oceanic phenomena El Niño and La Niña didn't affect the storm either, though their absence might have. This year is a neutral year between those two cycles, creating favorable conditions for strong storms. The unusual event that probably intensified Charley was the low-pressure trough that sat in the upper atmosphere above the Caribbean Sea just at the right time, Krishnamurti said.
Q: How long before grass dies under all that debris piled in the yards?
A: By now, after a few days, the grass is turning yellow, but it can still recover. The heat and rain is rotting it fast, though, and after about a week -- certainly two -- the grass will be brown and dead, said Tom MacCubbin, an urban horticulturist at the Orange County Cooperative Extension Service.
Q: Will cable, satellite, phone and cell-phone companies give credit for when there was no service, or if people had no power to use it?
A: If the company's lines are down, yes. If not, probably. Bright House Networks is giving cable customers credit for those days. Sprint is waiving fees for those days by enrolling interested customers in their "vacation plan" option, which is normally used for Snowbirds. It allows customers to opt out of the service when they're not here. BellSouth also will waive fees for lost days of service, said spokeswoman Marta Casas-Celaya.
Q: What tax credits or deductions are available for my out-of-pocket disaster-repair costs?
A: No credits are available, but such expenses may be tax deductible if they exceed 10 percent of someone's gross adjusted income, according to certified public accountants Bob Doyle and Gordon Spoor. And people don't have to wait until they file 2004 returns. The Internal Revenue Service recently said taxpayers could file an amended 2003 return that can include the deductible expense (a wise move if you anticipate your gross adjusted income will be higher in 2004). Doyle's and Spoor's tips: Keep a copy of the insurance estimate of your damage. Keep receipts for all repair work done. Obtain the IRS casualty loss form to file with your return.
Q: Are garbage- and debris-removal trucks having trouble navigating the streets littered with trees and debris, and is this putting them behind schedule?
A: Of course, though not terribly. Mike Carroll, Orlando's solid-waste-division manager, said trucks are finding very few streets they can't get down, though the problem varies across Central Florida. Debris pickup isn't on a schedule anywhere -- the volume of debris, not the streets, is the big problem there.
Q: If power hasn't come on, should people switch their electrical breakers off?
A: There is a slight difference of opinion on this.
Rick Janka, spokesman for Progress Energy, thinks it's a good idea, or at least for people to turn off all major appliances ranging from refrigerators to air conditioners to TVs. "But leave something on, like a light, so you know when power comes on," Janka said. "If you have everything on when the power comes on, you could have a surge, because you have this sudden rush of electricity demand."
Orlando Utilities Commission spokesman Sheridan Becht doesn't think there's a need to turn off breakers or even the fridge, but said the TVs, computers and air conditioner should be off. "The breakers should be on, unless there is a problem," he said.
Q: What's the best way to clean up a big stump and root system?
A: The best way is to have it ground out, MacCubbin said. If it's a pine tree, the termites will come in and chew that stump out within a year, while oak tree will take longer. He suggests people drill holes in the stump and pack them with soil, and the stump will rot out over time.
Stump removers such as saltpeter also are available in gardening and home-improvement stores.
Richard Burnett of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Scott Powers can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5441.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times