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Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Sunday, September 26, 2004

CNN > Four dead as Jeanne moves through Florida Almost 2 million customers without electricity in state

MELBOURNE, Florida (CNN) -- Hurricane Jeanne, downgraded Sunday to a tropical storm, is responsible for the deaths of at least four people in Florida, officials said.
A man and woman drowned in an SUV that left the road Saturday night, but officials could not recover the bodies until Sunday morning because of storm conditions, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol said.
A 15-year-old boy was killed by a falling tree along the St. Johns River on Sunday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Clay County Sheriff's Department said. She said a friend of the boy was hurt but that the injuries aren't life-threatening.
Also Sunday, a couple discovered a pickup in a deep drainage ditch in Palm Bay, south of Melbourne. The occupant had drowned, police spokesman Barney Weiss said.
Weiss said the man apparently drove into the flooded ditch by mistake.
The deaths were the first in the United States reported as a result of Jeanne, which made landfall with 120 mph winds just before midnight Saturday near the southern end of Hutchinson Island, five miles southeast of Stuart.
In that hard-hit town, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told residents Sunday that support would be there for them.
"This time our state will not only survive, it will rebound," he said. "We will be stronger and better because of what we've gone through."
The governor said the heaviest damage was to the Treasure Coast counties of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River. He said he has asked the federal government for aid.
President Bush declared the state a major disaster area, making way for additional funds to supplement its recovery efforts.
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)
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.
At 8 p.m., Jeanne was 30 miles southwest of Gainesville, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Maximum sustained winds were near 55 mph, and the storm was moving northwest near 13 mph.
The center said the storm is expected to turn to the north, then the northeast as it makes its way around a high-pressure system in the Southeast. The three-day forecast track issued by the center predicted Jeanne will weaken as it moves through central Georgia and the Carolinas before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
Jeanne was 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, said 100 mph gusts slammed Vero Beach well after the storm passed.
"We think we have severe damage like we've never had before," he said. "We have not been able to respond to calls due to high winds. With all the water we've had, we assume we're going to have severe flooding."
Power outages
Florida Power and Light, the state's largest power utility, said about 1.1 million of its customers were without power as of 5 p.m. Sunday. The company said it had already restored electricity to nearly 470,000 homes.
Progress Energy Florida, which serves central and northwest Florida, reported 595,000 customers without power at 3 p.m.
Tampa Electric reported 274,000 customers without power as of 4 p.m., according to the company's Web site.
Power officials urged residents to stay indoors and away from downed power lines until crews can get to the affected areas.
'It just doesn't stop'
Stuart Mayor Jeff Krauskopf, hunkered down in his home, ventured out with other city workers during the two hours of calm as the eye passed directly over his town.
Krauskopf said Stuart is suffering from hurricane fatigue.
"It just doesn't stop," he said. "It's like that song, Frances to the left of me, Ivan to the right, and Jeanne, I'm stuck in the middle with you.
"The howling is hellish," he added.
Stuart's Martin Memorial Hospital North lost half its roof, but the 50 patients inside were taken to a safe area and were not hurt, Krauskopf said. The hospital also was damaged from Hurricane Frances, and had completed interim repairs.
The two bridges to Hutchinson Island, the location of Jeanne's initial landfall, are impassable, making it impossible to know how the estimated 200 residents who refused to evacuate fared in the storm, he said.
National Guard aircraft have been requested for an aerial assessment of the island, Martin County spokesman Jeff Alter said.
Jeanne's worst damage was inflicted in Haiti, where more than 1,300 people are dead and a large number are still missing. (Full story)
CNN's Susan Candiotti, Anderson Cooper, Rob Marciano, Chad Myers, Gary Tuchman and John Zarrella contributed to this report.
Find this article at: /WEATHER/09/26/hurricane .jeanne/index.html

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