- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Before Florida could catch a breath from a furious hurricane double whammy, Keys residents were moving out yesterday under new evacuation orders as powerful Hurricane Ivan took aim at the state.

In South Florida, long lines reappeared at gas stations and shoppers swarmed building-supply stores and supermarkets to prepare for a possible third strike in a month — forecasters said Ivan could rake Florida’s narrow island chain as early as Monday. The state has not been hit by three hurricanes in a single season since 1964.

Gov. Jeb Bush said workers would redouble their round-the-clock efforts, even as they continued cleaning up after Hurricanes Charley and Frances. “We’re not worried about hurricane amnesia anymore,” he said. “We’re worried about hurricane anxiety.”

The National Hurricane Center said Ivan could hit the Keys as a Category 4 hurricane, with top wind of 131-to-155 mph, by late Monday, though there was still a chance the storm would move out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Ivan carried sustained winds near 145 mph yesterday, down from 160 mph Thursday. The powerful hurricane has already killed at least 32 persons in the Caribbean and has drawn a bead on Jamaica, where a half-million people were ordered to evacuate their homes in the sprawling capital of Kingston.

If it does strike Florida, Ivan would add to the state’s already deadly and costly hurricane season. Charley, which hit Aug. 13, and Frances, which hit Sunday, killed at least 50 persons and caused up to $20 billion in combined damage.

Both storms missed the Keys, however.

“We’ve all been through this trilogy. It’s no fun, but you do what you’ve got to do,” said Jane Fry, who loaded supplies into her car in a Walgreens parking lot, en route to stay with friends in Lakeland.

Tourists and residents of mobile homes were ordered to evacuate the Keys on Thursday, the third such order in a month. Shelters were being set up at Florida International University in Miami. Monroe County’s 79,000 residents were to begin leaving on a staggered schedule beginning at 7 a.m.

About a million homes and businesses still lacked power in the state. In South Florida, many gas stations temporarily ran dry, as they had before Frances.

“We are in unprecedented, uncharted water where we are attempting to stage a recovery and prepare at the same time,” said emergency operations spokesman Mark Esterly in Palm Beach County.

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