Frances hits Panhandle

Even as emergency crews in central and southern Florida assessed damages from Hurricane Frances, the weakened storm was hitting the Florida Panhandle.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | September 6, 2004



"While many have been concentrating on Frances' movement across the state, we have been preparing to respond to a potential impact along the Gulf coast on Monday."

—Captain David Worthy


Even as emergency crews in central and southern Florida assessed damages from Hurricane Frances, the weakened storm was hitting the Florida Panhandle.

Tropical Storm Frances made landfall - for the second time in Florida - near St. Marks as a much weaker storm, but evacuations were in place in various Panhandle counties.

At least six deaths have been blamed on Frances.

More than 13 inches of rain fell along Florida's central east coast, and rainfall amounts of six to ten inches, with locally higher amounts, are expected over portions of the southeastern United States along the wide path of Frances.

After hitting the Florida Panhandle, Frances will move into Georgia and Alabama. Rain was already spreading into southern Georgia and parts of South Carolina. Isolated tornadoes were a threat as well.

The Salvation Army and other faith-based groups were mobilizing a response in the Florida Panhandle on Monday afternoon.

"While many have been concentrating on Frances' movement across the state, we have been preparing to respond to a potential impact along the Gulf coast on Monday," said Captain David Worthy, commanding officer for The Salvation Army in Panama City.

The Salvation Army served 29,000 meals to hurricane-impacted people on Sunday.

One of the biggest challenges in south-central Florida by Monday afternoon was power outage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "More than 2 million people are without power," FEMA reported. "Restoration of power is the keystone of infrastructure restoration and the ability to commence long-term recovery."

Some of the power is starting to come back up for some people, said Jody Hill, head of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster. "But some of the flooding won't occur for the next couple of days. We are waiting to see what the storm surge will do."

Volunteer teams coordinated by the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church - and supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief - were planning to work with other faith-based groups to assist with cleanup, as they did after Hurricane Charley. Southern Baptist Convention and Mennonite Disaster Service teams were also ready to respond.

Church World Service was also redeploying Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons who have been identifying long-term needs since Hurricane Charley hit.

Many faith-based groups reported they were looking for additional sites as distribution points for relief supplies.

But lack of gasoline in Florida - along with simply unsafe roads littered with debris and downed power lines - was making it difficult to get around.

The state was urging residents and volunteers alike to stay put for the time being. Florida had more than 93,000 residents in 351 shelters on Monday.

Tornado warnings blanketed parts of Florida but no major tornado damage was reported.

Meanwhile, with Florida in the national headlines, at least some disaster responders expressed concern over losing public support for long-term response to disasters elsewhere in the country - and the world. "How do we respond adequately to major disasters like Charley and Frances, and not forget about even worse humanitarian disasters like the Darfur crisis in Sudan?" asked Johnny Wray, director of Week of Compassion, a giving campaign administered through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).


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