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Hurricane Jeanne

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  • Hurricane Jeanne

    Four Dead As Jeanne Moves Through Florida

    Georgia next on itinerary for weakened storm
    Monday, September 27, 2004 Posted: 2:42 AM EDT (0642 GMT)

    MELBOURNE, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Jeanne's winds had dropped to 50 mph by early Monday, further weakening the fourth hurricane to batter Florida in six weeks to a low-level tropical storm as it moved toward southern Georgia.

    The storm left at least four people dead in Florida, and some reports have put the death toll at six.

    The Florida Highway Patrol said a man and woman from Boynton Beach drowned in a 40-foot-deep manmade lake in Deerfield Beach when their SUV left the Sawgrass Expressway and plunged into the water.

    Lt. Pat Santangelo, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, said the accident occurred Saturday night, as the area was buffeted by high winds and driving rain. A highway patrol officer noticed skid marks and a broken fence, but the visibility was so poor, divers couldn't enter the water. The submerged vehicle and bodies were recovered Sunday morning.

    A tree along the St. Johns River fell late Sunday afternoon, killing a 15-year-old boy who was in his back yard with a friend, said Mary Justino, spokeswoman for the Clay County Sheriff's Department. She said the other teen was hurt but the injuries aren't life-threatening.

    Justino said many large trees in the Fleming Island area of the county have toppled, their roots already weakened by Hurricane Frances.

    Also Sunday, a couple discovered a pickup in a deep drainage ditch in Palm Bay, and its occupant had drowned, said police spokesman Barney Weiss. He said the man apparently drove into the flooded ditch by mistake. Palm Bay is south of Melbourne.

    At 2 a.m. ET Monday, Tropical Storm Jeanne with its 50 mph winds was about 50 miles south of Valdosta, Ga. The storm was moving to the north at 12 mph and was expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Monday afternoon.

    More force than Frances

    Officials at the Florida Emergency Operations Center said Jeanne walloped the state with more force than its predecessor, Hurricane Frances, which followed the same course three weeks ago.

    "It's too early" to estimate damages, said Community Affairs Secretary Thaddeus Cohen. "We still have tropical-storm force, hurricane-force winds out there, and our focus is on safety."

    Flooding and wind damage from Jeanne is extensive, with downed power lines, uprooted trees and roofs stripped away. More than 1.8 million power customers were without electricity Sunday, the EOC said.

    Risk Management Solutions, a catastrophe-modeling firm that works for the insurance industry, estimated Sunday that Jeanne could cause between $4 billion and $8 billion in insured losses in the United States. (Full story)

    President Bush has declared the state a major disaster area, making way for additional federal aid to supplement the state's recovery efforts.

    As the storm trekked into northern Florida late Sunday, the National Hurricane Center had discontinued the tropical storm warning for parts of the gulf coast south of Englewood. A tropical storm warning remains in effect on the Atlantic coast from around Cocoa Beach northward to the Savannah River on the Georgia-South Carolina border, and on the Gulf Coast from Anclote key northward to Apalachicola.

    At least 1.6 million without power

    Even with its status downgraded, Jeanne could still produce gusts strong enough to topple trees and down power lines.

    It made landfall just before midnight Saturday with 120-mph winds near the southern end of Hutchinson Island, five miles southeast of Stuart on Florida's east coast -- near Hurricane Frances' landfall on September 5.

    In hard-hit Stuart, Florida's governor told residents that support would be there for them.

    "This time our state will not only survive, it will rebound," Jeb Bush said.

    He said the heaviest damage was to the treasure coast counties of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River.

    On the Atlantic coast, it was hard to tell where wreckage from previous storms ended and Jeanne's wreckage began. Tattered blue tarps fluttered in the wind, revealing roofs and walls that may have been damaged by Jeanne or merely had earlier damage freshly exposed to the elements.

    CNN's Susan Candiotti was given a deputy sheriff escort onto Hutchinson Island in Martin County, where the storm made landfall, and saw "no major signs of damage that one might expect."

    "We did see a lot of downed power lines, some roof damage," she said. "There have been no reports of major injuries or loss of life."

    Florida Power and Light, the state's largest power utility, said about 1.6 million of its customers were without power as of 5 p.m. Sunday. Some areas, power officials said, may be without electricity for as long as three weeks.

    "With all the people trying to get back to their homes, we're going to be faced with traffic problems in being able to move our crews and be able to bring convoys of out-of-state utilities to where they're needed," said FPL spokesman Bill Swank.

    During Frances, sightseers jammed the roads and slowed the power companies' recovery efforts by a full day, he said.

    Progress Energy Florida, one of the state's two largest power companies, reported 223,000 customers statewide without power at 11 a.m.

    Power officials urged residents to stay indoors and away from downed power lines until crews can get to the affected areas.

    Jeanne is the first major hurricane to make landfall north of West Palm Beach and south of the Savannah River for as long as records have been kept.

    Joe Baird, emergency management director for Indian River County, north of Fort Pierce, said 100 mph gusts slammed Vero Beach well after the storm passed.

    At one Vero Beach truck stop, several tractor trailers were blown onto their sides, one onto an SUV. Some roofs -- already battered by Hurricane Frances -- were blown off by Jeanne.

    Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said his city was spared a direct hit, but the storm still exacted a toll, inundating the area with rain and buffeting it with winds of 50 to 70 mph. A third of Orlando's residents were without power Sunday. Search-and-rescue teams were formed to survey the coastal areas.

    About 180,000 people in Tampa were out of power Sunday, Mayor Pam Iorio said.

    Still recovering from Hurricane Frances, the city was already cleaning up 300,000 cubic yards of debris left behind by that storm, making this the largest cleanup effort in Tampa in more than 30 years, officials said. City workers were to resume removing storm debris Monday.

    Dave Bruns, a spokesman for the state Division of Emergency Management in Tallahassee, said emergency officials were ready to move in with supplies as soon as conditions allow.

    Particularly problematic, he said, would be assessing damage on the barrier islands -- like Hutchinson -- which are largely cut off from the mainland during hurricanes.

    "A lot of those assessments are going to be made by air," he said.

    Since hurricane information has been recorded, Florida has never been hit by four hurricanes in the same year, according to Max Mayfield, NHC director.

    Texas was hit by four hurricanes in 1886, he said.

    Jeanne follows hurricanes Charley and Frances, which battered the peninsula, and Ivan, which pounded the panhandle, though its eye made landfall on the Alabama coast.

    Jeanne stalled and then re-strengthened between Haiti and the Bahamas, triggering flooding in Haiti that killed more than 1,500 people.