- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Janet Hettinger waited more than two days to return to her home on this city’s barrier island only to be told she couldn’t go inside because Hurricane Jeanne had made that impossible.

“There’s nothing to see anymore anyway,” Miss Hettinger, 81, said yesterday, putting her pointer finger to her temple and pretending to pull the trigger.

The five-story condo where she lived was severely damaged by Hurricane Frances early this month before Jeanne finished the job — ripping off facing, tearing through walls and leaving aluminum siding dangling.

Rebuilding, if residents decide to, would take about three years.

“I don’t know if I will live that long. I’m ready to call it quits right now,” Miss Hettinger said.

Thousands of residents waited in a mile-long line yesterday to get a chance to see the destruction that Jeanne meted out in Vero Beach. Condo owners such as Miss Hettinger fared the worst, while most of the single-family homes seemed to have made it through.

As it churned north, the storm’s remnants dumped torrential rain and spawned tornadoes. Two deaths in South Carolina on Monday were blamed on the tropical depression, and damage was widespread.

More than 3 inches of rain had fallen by yesterday afternoon in Hagerstown, Md., and dozens of roads were closed because of flooding in Maryland’s Appalachian foothills.

At least six twisters were reported Monday in North Carolina, damaging more than 100 buildings. In South Carolina, a tornado killed one man, and another died after his car ran off a rain-slicked highway.

Across storm-battered Florida, the day began with more than 1,000 people in shelters, 1.6 million homes and businesses without power and at least one insurance company seeking state help because it was overwhelmed with claims.

The emotional toll mounted, too. Gov. Jeb Bush announced that domestic-violence reports were spiking in areas hit by the four hurricanes that have slammed Florida in the past six weeks.

“Nerves are frayed, and frustration levels run high,” Mr. Bush said. “The stress of rebuilding a home or business can be overwhelming.”

President Bush, the governor’s brother, planned to make his fourth visit to Florida to tour storm-ravaged areas.

Combined, Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne have damaged more than one of every five Florida homes. The insurance industry was expecting claims this season to top 2 million, greatly exceeding the 700,000 claims filed 12 years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, the nation’s most destructive hurricane.

Tom Gallagher, who as Florida’s chief financial officer oversees insurance regulation, estimated insured losses from this season’s four storms at $18 billion, or $3 billion more than Andrew.

Last weekend, Jeanne killed at least six persons in Florida, bearing down on the state with winds of 120 mph. The havoc caused by the four hurricanes prompted the largest relief effort ever undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Bush asked Congress late Monday for more than $7.1 billion to help Southeastern states recover from their lashing by four hurricanes. His third request for storm aid brings total proposed funding to at least $12.2 billion.

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