Long lines for hurricane assistance

Thousands of people endured another day of long traffic lines Monday as they waited to apply for federal assistance for the food that was ruined by Hurricane Irma.

The Food for Florida disaster assistance program, which is run by the Department of Children and Families, has been handling up to 8,000 families a day since it opened at its temporary Hillsborough County site at Plant City Stadium.

Most applicants reported traffic delays of an average of four or five hours. FOX 13 heard several horror stories, however, from people who say it took them as long as 13 hours to get to the parking lot. The massive crowd, which included people from 11 counties and as far away as Miami, forced organizers to open up a second parking lot.

"We're trying logistically to go anything we can to alleviate the traffic concerns," said Terry Field, a spokesperson for DCF. "By filling and releasing the two lots separately, we can get technically double the cars in and out of here as quickly as possible. The demand is just so great after the hurricane that unfortunately these roads just can't handle it right now."

The program is aimed at helping low income families who financially qualify for assistance by providing them with hundreds of dollars to replace food lost during Irma.

For some applicants, the storm was a one-two punch: They suffered damage to their homes or apartments and had no power for several days, resulting in kitchens full of rotten food.

"I lost just about everything I had. I was without power for a couple days," said Tawanna Harris, as she left the Plant City site. "I couldn't even tell you how much it's going to help us. It's just been a struggle for us."

For many people, the traffic was the longest delay. Those who pre-registered on the DCF website, as the agency recommends, told FOX 13 the wait wasn't long once they were inside the site.

"I pre-registered, so to get in and to come out it only took 10 minutes," said Mary Ann Murphy, who lost all her food due to a lengthy power outage. "Everything was gone and you don't know how much you've got in there until you start taking it out and these huge garbage cans, you fill two of them. I'm like, 'This is ridiculous.'"

The Hillsborough County site in Plant City is open one more time on Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hernando residents have until October 11 to visit the site location at the Hernando County Fairgrounds.

Here are the dates and site locations for other counties in the Bay Area:

October 13 - 17
8201 S. Tamiami Trail

October 14 - 18
RP Funding Building
701 W. Lime Street

October 14 - 16
Hardee Agri-Civic Center
515 Civic Center Drive

October 14 - 16
Bert J. Jarvis Agri-Civic Center
4509 George Blvd.

October 15 - 17
Desoto Square Mall
303 301 Blvd.
W. Bradenton

October 22 - 25
3032 Collier Parkway
Land O'Lakes

October 28 - 30
Location to be determined

October 20 - 21
Location to be determined

Site locations have already come and gone in Citrus and Pinellas counties.