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Jeanne slams Florida

At least six people were dead, and 1.5 million were without power in Florida by Sunday evening.

BY SUSAN KIM | PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. | September 26, 2004

"We are preparing for our fourth large-scale hurricane relief effort."

—Major Don Vick

At least six people were dead, and 1.5 million were without power in Florida by Sunday evening.

Jeanne made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with 120-mph winds shortly before midnight Saturday near the southern tip of Hutchinson Island near Stuart, about 35 miles north of West Palm Beach. It's nearly the same point of landfall Hurricane Frances had. At least a foot of water flowed through the city of Vero Beach after Jeanne hit.

The storm will move over northern Florida Sunday night and into Monday, forecasters said, potentially hitting areas in the Panhandle suffering from post-Hurricane Ivan damage. Some 70,000 homes there were still without power in the wake of Ivan's landfall 10 days ago.

Emergency disaster relief was beginning - again - by Sunday afternoon as Jeanne weakened to a tropical storm and continued to slice across the state into central Florida.

Two million people had been urged to evacuate but it was unknown exactly how many left. More than 59,000 people were in shelters on Sunday afternoon, said state officials.

Jeanne was expected to stay inland over Georgia and the Carolinas through Tuesday. As the storm moves further inland, it could drop up to 10 inches of rain. Flooding could be a major concern because previous hurricanes have saturated the ground and filled canals, rivers and lakes. The storm was likely to be downgraded to a tropical depression on Monday.

Florida makes grim history - four hurricanes have not ever hit Florida in a single season, and the only state to sustain four hurricanes in one season has been Texas, in 1886. Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne have hit Florida within a six-week span.

In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced its largest deployment in history.

Relief officials feared long-term recovery from other storms would be that much slower as new storms strike. Leaders from faith-based groups tried to reassure people their relief teams would be on hand for those affected by Jeanne - even while assuring those recovering from previous storms they wouldn't be forgotten.

It's simply a stretch for resources - both financial and human.

Even before Jeanne hit, some 80,000 people had no electricity in Florida following Ivan, and officials feared many could be without power for three weeks or more.

Relief groups were focusing on getting food, water and other necessities to people.

"We are preparing for our fourth large-scale hurricane relief effort," said Major Don Vick from The Salvation Army, who said some teams were transferred from the Panhandle, where they had been responding to Ivan, back to eastern Florida. "We want to be prepared to respond immediately to this hurricane as we have the last three," said Vick. "But, we also want to ensure residents in the Panhandle that we will continue to help them."

Some resources will simply have to be re-directed, said relief leaders.

"While many of our resources will again be redirected to respond to the immediate needs of those impacted by Jeanne, we continue to make great strides forward toward recovery," said Jody Hill, head of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster.

Meetings focusing on long-term recovery were postponed over the weekend until Jeanne's immediate aftermath could be assessed.

As far as predicted damages, relief officials might do well to take a look at the path of Frances. The paths of the two storms were strikingly similar, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane season ends Nov. 30 - that's 65 days left.

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Related Links:

Florida Interfaiths Networking in Disaster (FIND)

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