Jeanne drenches GA and SC 1PM Monday PDT
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press Writer
MELBOURNE, Fla. - Hurricane Jeanne tore a fresh path of destruction as it marched up storm-ravaged Florida and moved into Georgia and South Carolina Monday, losing strength along the way. The fourth hurricane in six weeks shut down much of Florida and prompted recovery plans on a scale never before seen in the nation.
At 2 p.m. EDT, the center was in southwestern Georgia south of Macon. It was moving north at 14 mph and was expected to move over the Carolinas. Most counties in South Carolina except the northeast corner were under a flood watch, and the U.S. Weather Service placed much of southern Georgia under a tornado watch. North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency and mobilized 300 National Guard soldiers.
Jeanne was at barely tropical storm strength when its center moved over Georgia late Monday morning, dumping up to 6 inches of rain. It later weakened into a tropical depression with steady winds near 35 mph.
The storm then doused South Carolina and spawned tornadoes that damaged seven mobile homes and a building housing a Head Start center, said Cody Odom, of the Clarendon County Disaster Preparedness Agency. Four people were injured.
About 50 homes in Valdosta, Ga., in the south-central part of the state, were evacuated early Monday because of flooding. More than 76,000 Georgia homes and businesses were without power, and about 760 people stayed in Red Cross shelters.
In Florida, at least six people died in the storm as it plowed across the state's midsection in a virtual rerun for many residents still trying to regroup from hurricanes that have crisscrossed the Southeast since mid-August.
"This is the price we pay for living in paradise," said Phyllis Cole, laughing at her predicament as she waited along with about a dozen others Monday on a promise that a Home Depot store in Stuart would reopen. Everyone wanted the same thing: a generator. None was in stock, but the manager thought some were on the way.
Jeanne came ashore around midnight Saturday with 120 mph wind, striking the same area hit three weeks ago by Hurricane Frances and rocketing debris scattered by earlier storms. Roofs were torn off, stop lights dangled precariously and bridges were flooded from the mainland to barrier islands. About 2.6 million homes and businesses lost power, but some 800,000 had it restored by midday.
"We have some people in Florida who have been hit two or three times now by these hurricanes. They have to be miserable right now," Federal Emergency Management Agencydirector Mike Brown told "The Early Show" on CBS.
Frustration was obvious Monday in Florida. Nicole Jillard and Ed Holzer waited 20 minutes in their car with their 3- and 1-year-old children for two bags of ice, a case of bottled water and 12 Meals Ready to Eat at a Kmart parking lot in Stuart.
The drive-up service provided by the National Guard attracted a line of cars stretching at least a half-mile down U.S. 1, the coastal city's main thoroughfare.
"This is not good," Holzer said. "We don't have enough money to keep running to places like Fort Myers for food and water."
Florida was the first state to withstand a four-hurricane pounding in one season since Texas in 1886 — a milestone that came with two months remaining in the hurricane season.
"We fix it and nature destroys it and we fix it again," said Rockledge bar owner Franco Zavaroni, who opened his tavern to seven friends who spread mattresses on the floor among the pool tables to ride out the storm.
Irene Underwood, 88, waited at a Red Cross shelter in Melbourne for a ride to her sixth shelter since the hurricanes started. Her latest temporary home was being closed as emergency officials consolidated operations.
"I can't go home because I don't have any power. It's terrible," Underwood said.
Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith said Monday that Jeanne left few buildings in his county unscarred because Frances had weakened them and subsequent rain from Ivan had saturated the ground.
President Bush declared a major disaster area in 26 of Florida's 67 counties while FEMA officials said the hurricanes represented the largest relief effort in the agency's history, eclipsing the response to the 1994 earthquake in the Northridge section of Los Angeles.
More than 3,000 National Guard troops were deployed to aid relief efforts. Several counties, including Palm Beach and St. Lucie — two of the hardest hit by Jeanne's winds and rain — opened distribution sites Monday for water and ice.
Jeanne follows Charley, which hammered Florida's southwest coast Aug. 13; Frances, which struck the same area as Jeanne Sept. 5; and Ivan, which blasted the western Panhandle Sept. 16. The three storms caused billions of dollars in damage and killed at least 73 people in Florida alone.
"I never want to go through this again," said 8-year-old Katie Waskiewicz, who checked out the fallen trees and broken roof tiles in her Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood after riding out Jeanne with her family. "I was running around the house screaming."
Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall at Hutchinson Island, 35 miles north of West Palm Beach. Officials at the National Hurricane Center said the similar paths of Jeanne and Frances were possibly unprecedented.
At least 21 Florida county school districts canceled classes on Monday, including St. Lucie County, where schools had not reopened since Frances.
Police in St. Lucie rescued five families when the hurricane's eye passed over, including a couple in their 90s in wheelchairs whose mobile home collapsed around them, emergency operations spokeswoman Linette Trabulsy said. A Coast Guard helicopter crew found two fishermen who had radioed a mayday off Anclote Key, about 25 miles northwest of Tampa.
The toll from the latest storm extended south to Miami, where one person was electrocuted after touching a downed power line. Two people died when their sport utility vehicle plunged into a canal; a 15-year-old boy was killed by a falling tree; and a man was found dead in a ditch in what police called an apparent drowning.
A 60-year-old man was found dead after a hurricane party at a home. Police said the death may be alcohol-related or he may have drowned in the flooded house.
The Palm Beach County sheriff's office made 132 arrests for curfew violations. Four people in a car stopped for violating the curfew dragged a sergeant 150 feet Sunday night near Belle Glade. Three other deputies fired on the car, which blew a tire.
With Jeanne dumping heavy rain, there was fear of flooding in the days to come in already saturated east and central Florida. The storm dumped about 10 inches of rain in Palm Beach County and 5 inches in Orlando, St. Petersburg and Melbourne.
Earlier, Jeanne caused flooding in Haiti that killed more than 1,500 people.
Associated Press writers Jill Barton in West Palm Beach, Deborah Hastings in Stuart and Ron Word in Titusville contributed to this report.