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 » 2006 Forecast  | Saffir-Simpson scale  |  Your stories

Downgraded Frances blows across Florida

Hurricane warning issued for parts of Gulf Coast


more videoVIDEO
East coast damage as Frances threatens the Panhandle

Utility workers in southern Florida rush to restore power.

A family riding out Frances in a motel hopes their home survives the weather.
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HURRICANE FRANCES
11 p.m. Sunday ET
  • Position of center: 25 miles north-northwest of Tampa, Florida
  • Latitude: 28.3 north
  • Longitude: 82.7 west
  • Top sustained winds: near 65 mph
  • Map: Projected path

    Source: Natl. Hurricane Center
  • SPECIAL REPORT
    YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
    Hurricane Frances
    Florida
    Bahamas

    MELBOURNE, Florida (CNN) -- Frances weakened to a tropical storm Sunday as it hovered over west-central Florida, pounding the region with powerful winds and dumping rain on the entire state. One possible storm-related death was reported.

    As of 11 p.m. ET, the storm was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north-northwest of Tampa with maximum sustained winds of near 65 mph (104 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

    Winds of tropical storm strength -- 39 to 73 mph -- extend outward to 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the center.

    The storm has been moving in a general west-northwest direction at about 8 mph (13 kph), and the center predicted it would regain Category 1 hurricane strength Monday after moving over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

    Florida Emergency Management Agency spokesman Ben Nelson urged Tampa residents to prepare for a 4- to 8-foot storm surge in Tampa Bay.

    The center said a hurricane warning for the northwest Gulf Coast remained in effect from Destin in the Panhandle to Anna Maria Island south of St. Petersburg, meaning that hurricane conditions are expected within 24 hours.

    The Panhandle was hit by Tropical Storm Bonnie last month just before Hurricane Charley slammed southwest Florida.

    National Hurricane Center deputy director Ed Rappaport said it could be two more days before Frances exits Florida for other states in the Southeast.

    "South Florida will have a much better day tomorrow, as will central Florida, but conditions will be deteriorating tonight and tomorrow in the north and the Florida Panhandle," he said.

    Florida Gov. Jeb Bush promised that emergency responders would "not wait for blue skies," but had to let the storm abate somewhat for the safety of the crews.

    "This is going to be a quick response by literally thousands of people," Bush said Sunday morning. (Full story)

    The hurricane center also issued tornado warnings for central Florida.

    Tropical storm warnings remained in effect on the Florida east coast from Jupiter Inlet (south of Fort Pierce) north to Altamaha Sound on the Georgia coast, and for the lower southwestern Peninsula, including the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas.

    Storm warnings on the lower east coast from Jupiter Inlet south to Florida City were discontinued.

    Storm damage

    Coastal storm surge flooding along with large and dangerous battering waves continue along north Florida's east coast but should gradually subside. Storm surge flooding of up to 5 feet above normal levels was expected to subside Monday.

    West Palm Beach reported 10.36 inches of rain since Saturday at midnight, and Daytona Beach and Gardner reported record amounts of nearly 4 inches Sunday alone.

    Frances came ashore overnight near Stuart, about 70 miles south of Melbourne, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. By 2 p.m. Sunday, its top sustained winds had dropped to 75 mph -- barely above the 74 mph minimum for hurricane status.

    Up and down the Atlantic coast, the storm ripped roofs off stores and homes, flattened gas station canopies and slammed moored boats against one another. Palm trees bent nearly horizontal in the wind.

    Fallen trees blocked roads and took out power lines, and more than 1.8 million power customers were reported to have lost electricity. It was unclear how many of the affected customers were still in their homes.

    At Fort Pierce -- 20 miles north of Stuart -- the city's new marina was reported heavily damaged, and dozens of boats and yachts were smashed into the walls.

    In advance of the storm, the state issued evacuation orders in parts of 41 counties, covering 2.8 million residents -- the largest evacuation in Florida's history. Those who did not leave were urged to avoid low-lying areas.

    Police received calls from worried residents with last-minute requests for evacuation help, but the callers were told they should hunker down in their homes because no one was available to help.

    The Red Cross set up shelters in Georgia and Alabama as well as Florida, spokeswoman Carol Miller said.

    More than 90,000 people were in 349 shelters Sunday.

    The storm killed at least two people in the Bahamas before moving to Florida. (Full story)

    The Florida Highway Patrol said it was investigating what appeared to be the first traffic-related death from the storm in the state.

    A 28-year-old Lakeland man was driving north Sunday morning on Interstate 75 when his 1998 Mitsubishi left the road and hit a tree north of Micanopy, south of Gainesville in north-central Florida, a patrol spokesman said.

    Orange County sheriff's deputies arrested 10 people in five looting incidents, according to Lt. Danny McAvoy, a spokesman for the county Emergency Management Agency.

    He said three men were arrested while trying to steal a safe from a grocery store, four men were looting a liquor store, one man tried to break into a restaurant and two men were caught stealing suits from a men's clothing store.

    Fifth hurricane forms in Atlantic

    Meanwhile, Hurricane Ivan -- the fifth hurricane of the season -- rapidly intensified into a Category 4 storm Sunday in the Atlantic and appeared to be heading toward the Lesser Antilles, the hurricane center said.

    As of Sunday evening, the storm was 760 miles (1,216 kilometers) east-southeast of Barbados and moving west-northwest at 21 mph (33 kph) with sustained winds of 135 mph (215 kph). It could strengthen over the next 24 hours, the center said. (Projected path)

    The government of Trinidad and Tobago issued a tropical storm watch for Grenada and dependencies, the center said. Barbados remained under a hurricane watch.


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