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1 million evacuate as hurricane approaches

More than one million people evacuated from the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Dennis approached.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | July 9, 2005

More than one million people evacuated from the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Dennis approached with 100-mph winds.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35 miles from the storm's center, and tropical storm-force winds stretched up to 175 miles out.

Hurricane Dennis brushed the Florida Keys on Saturday, and the Tampa Bay area was feeling the effects of the storm by Saturday morning, with several tornadoes that caused minor damage.

On Friday, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Key West but at least some residents decided to stay against the advice of emergency management officials. Power outages were widepread in the Keys.

Dennis - a Category 2 storm with 100-mph winds on Saturday morning - was forecast to make landfall somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana on Sunday or Monday. Response officials were worried the storm would hit the same region Hurricane Ivan devastated last year.

Ivan came ashore at the Florida-Alabama line, killing 29 people and causing $4 billion damage in the Panhandle alone.

Local churches across Alabama and Florida were set up as emergency shelters. Many residents and responders alike reported they were doing two things: preparing and praying.

States of emergency have been declared in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) in the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Texas are activated and operating 24 hours a day.

Representatives from faith-based and voluntary disaster response agencies continued to meet in person and via telephone. Coalitions of state Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) were swapping information about needs and resources. The National VOAD was coordinating communication and monitoring the storm on a national level as well.

Hurricane Dennis is the earliest hurricane to reach Category 4 strength in the Caribbean on record. It killed 10 people in Cuba and 10 in Haiti.

The storm decreased in strength to Category 1 after passing over Cuba, but strengthened again as it moved over open water into a Category 2.


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