Hurricane Jeanne Leaves Swath of Destruction; Relief Workers at the Ready

Hurricane Jeanne tore a fresh path of destruction and despair as it finished its march Monday up storm-ravaged Florida, where the fourth major hurricane in six weeks shut down much of the state and prompted recovery plans on a scale never before seen in...


MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) -- Hurricane Jeanne tore a fresh path of destruction and despair as it finished its march Monday up storm-ravaged Florida, where the fourth major hurricane in six weeks shut down much of the state and prompted recovery plans on a scale never before seen in the nation.

At least six people died in the storm, which plowed across Florida's midsection in a virtual rerun for many residents still trying to regroup from hurricanes that have crisscrossed the Southeast since mid-August.

``Once again. we're facing a hurricane/tropical storm that's just wreaking havoc wherever it goes,'' FEMA director Mike Brown told ``The Early Show'' on CBS Monday. ``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.''

Rocketing debris scattered in earlier storms, Jeanne came ashore around midnight Saturday with 120-mph winds, striking its first blow in the same area hit three weeks ago by Hurricane Frances. It was expected to weaken into a tropical depression later Monday with winds of less than 39 mph.

It had passed Monday east of the Panhandle, where 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power because of Hurricane Ivan less than two weeks ago.

``Adversity makes us strong. This dynamic state will return,'' Gov. Jeb Bush said at the Indian River County emergency operations center Sunday, where nearly all of the county was without power and residents were told to boil tap water before drinking it to avoid contaminants.

Jeanne ripped off roofs, left stop lights dangling precariously, destroyed a deserted community center in Jensen Beach and flooded some bridges from the mainland to barrier islands straddling the Atlantic coast. More than 2.3 million homes and businesses were without power early Monday.

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.

Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith said Monday that Jeanne left few buildings in his county unscarred because Frances had weakened them and subsequent rain connected to Hurricane Ivan had made the ground saturated.

``Everything has been compromised to some extent,'' Smith told NBC's ``Today'' show. ``We have lost a lot more structures this time.''

Rain sprayed sideways when Jeanne's eye struck land. As it dragged across northern Florida early Monday, it had weakened to a tropical storm with top sustained wind near 45 mph.

At 8 a.m. EDT Monday, the center of the storm was in southwestern Georgia near Moultrie. It was moving north-northwest at near 12 mph.

President Bush declared a major disaster area in Florida while FEMA officials said the hurricanes represented the largest relief effort in the agency's history, larger than the response to the 1994 earthquake in Northridge section of Los Angeles.

``We just somehow have to get as much relief to them as possible to show them that we're going to be right there with them, that we haven't abandoned them,'' Brown said.

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 - planned to open distribution sites Monday morning, but the plans were contingent on water and ice supplies being delivered as scheduled by federal officials.

Charley was a faster storm when it hammered Florida's southwest coast Aug. 13; Frances blanketed much of the peninsula after striking the state's Atlantic coast Sept. 5; and Ivan blasted the western Panhandle when it made landfall Sept. 16. The three storms caused billions of dollars in damage and killed at least 73 people in Florida alone.

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