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Thousands lose power as Jeanne plows into FL

FL feels brunt of hurricane as powerful Jeanne plows across the coast.

BY DISASTER NEWS NETWORK STAFF | BALTIMORE | September 25, 2004


"There's a fear of the return of a storm, fear of the unknown and a fear of not having control."

—Grace Wilke


Hurricane Jeanne crossed the Florida coast late Saturday as emergency officials expressed concern about the large numbers of residents who refused to leave when evacuation orders were posted Friday.

Jeanne washed ashore in Palm Beach County -- the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to hit that area in more than 50 years. A weaker Hurricane Frances plowed through much of the same area on Labor Day weekend, causing significant water and wind damage.

As the storm made landfall, more than 100,000 residents had already lost power. Florida Power and Light (FPL) warned that it may take three weeks before electricity is restored.

Officials Saturday were concerned about citizen complacency. "This is not going to weaken," warned Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. "We must treat Hurricane Jeanne as if it was the first hurricane of the season," Alex Penelas, Miami-Dade Mayor, told reporters.

That news has put many residents on edge.

"People are stressed out," said Grace Wilke, Orlando-Area volunteer coordinator for Lutheran Services of Florida. "There's a fear of the return of a storm, fear of the unknown and a fear of not having control. And these feelings are not going away, it's just one storm after another."

It's not just local residents who are feeling the stress. Emergency responders, planners and police are all caught up in the pressure. "Everybody in Florida is burned out," Wilke said.

The Rev. David Harris, pastor at the Trinity United Methodist Church in hard-hit Arcadia, FL, said local responders are so shocked themselves they’re having trouble even conceptualizing the potential impact of Jeanne, even though the storm’s impact could be imminent.

“Really, it’s simply that nobody wants to even talk about Jeanne,” he said.

National disaster relief leaders, many of whom were in Florida this week, expressed concern that a hit by Hurricane Jeanne would stretch already-thinning material and financial resources, not to mention personnel who are growing increasingly tired.

Repeated storms combined with a major religious holiday this weekend are complicating emergency planning. Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, began at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. While celebrating the religious holiday, many Jewish people do not use electronic devices, making it difficult to broadcast hurricane information.

Reflecting the uncertainty of the hurricane's track, a hurricane watch has been posted from St. Augustine north to the Altamaha Sound in GA. A hurricane watch is posted when hurricane conditions may exist within 36 hours.

Jeanne currently has hurricane force winds spreading 70 miles from its center and tropical storm winds extend 205 miles wide.

Susan Kim and Heather Moyer contributed to this story.


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