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Dennis moving inland; new system forms

Hurricane Dennis had weakened to a tropical depression with 35-mph winds as it moved over northeast Mississippi Monday morning.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | July 11, 2005

Hurricane Dennis had weakened to a tropical depression on Monday morning but there were still concerns among responders about inland flooding - and about the public's erroneous impression that there was little damge in Alabama and Florida, where the storm made landfall.

The storm could dump three to six inches of rain over parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Tornadoes were possible in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Rural areas were a big concern, as well, since damage there is more difficult to assess and people in need are harder to reach.

Monday’s national headlines that emphasized Florida and Alabama had “dodged the bullet” did not always accurately portray the damage in the affected areas.

Phillip Tyson Reed, executive director of the Island Church Recovery Team, Inc., in Gulf Shores, Ala., said he objected to headlines that said his region "dodged the bullet."

The Island Church long-term recovery group and many other long-term recovery organizations are coping with people's long-term needs - and new damage on top of that. "I am thinking of the people we are helping - like the elderly and single parents, for example. These are not people who dodged the bullet by any means," he said. "These are people whose homes are still a disaster from Ivan and whose homes are structurally unsound. They're still living in them because they have no place else to go. Now throw Dennis on top of that. And that's how the whole region down here has been affected, not just Gulf Shores.

"We still have so much work to do and so many people to help. I mean, so many people."

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown, along with many local faith-based and voluntary response representatives, were working to send the message to the public that there was serious damage in the wake of the storm, and that people would have significant needs.

Mental health needs were also a concern, and responding groups were discussing how to address those needs as well.

President George Bush declared 38 counties in Mississippi and 45 counties in Alabama federal disaster areas, making them eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Several counties in Florida were declared as well. Decisions were still being made regarding which counties would be eligible for individual assistance and which would be eligible for public assistance.

More than 550,000 customers in four states were left without power, and some could be out for three weeks or more, warned power company officials. In Alabama, power outages affected more than 280,000 households. About 237,000 homes were without power in the Florida Panhandle, with 55,000 in Georgia and 5,000 in Mississippi.

Emergency management officials were urging people to stay evacuated until they were officially given an all-clear to return.

In the village of St. Marks, south of Tallahassee, many homes were under water, and assessments were ongoing there.

Faith-based and voluntary groups hit the road on Monday morning with rapid response teams, canteens, cleanup kits and other supplies.

Hurricane Dennis made landfall with 120-mph winds as a Category 3 storm very close to the area where Hurricane Ivan - also a Category 3 storm - hit last year. Dennis was a smaller storm than Ivan and was also weaker when it made landfall less than 50 miles east of where Ivan came ashore.

The season’s fifth tropical depression gained strength early Monday far out in the Atlantic, with top sustained winds of 35 mph. Forecasters said it could become Tropical Storm Emily by Tuesday or Wednesday.

On Monday, the depression was 1,185 miles east of the Windward Islands.


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Mental health often overlooked

Why did so much rain fall?


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