- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The storm that was Hurricane Ivan extended its deadly march across the South yesterday, destroying homes, swamping streets and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power from the Gulf Coast to the Carolinas.

Ivan was the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States since Floyd in 1999, but it could have been worse. In all, the hurricane was blamed for 70 deaths in the Caribbean and at least 33 in the United States, 14 of them in Florida.

The storm’s remnants battered the southern Appalachians yesterday. And more bad news awaits: Tropical Storm Jeanne looms in the Atlantic on a track toward the southeastern United States — and, possibly, Florida.

More than 1.8 million homes and businesses were without power yesterday.

“People are just sick of it,” groaned Dennis Mace, who as a handyman is one of the few Floridians benefiting after the third hurricane in five weeks assaulted the Sunshine State. Hunting for work in the wake of Ivan, Mr. Mace spotted a sign that summed up the feelings of many:

It read: “1 Charley, 2 Frances, 3 Ivan, 4 Sale.”

Ivan weakened after coming ashore, but it continued to spin off tornadoes and cause flooding across the South, already soggy after Hurricanes Charley and Frances. Up to nine inches of rain fell on parts of Georgia.

In North Carolina, Ivan’s heavy rain and wind forced evacuations along rivers, knocked out power to nearly 220,000 customers and sent trees crashing into homes across the western part of the state. At least six persons died there. The hurricane’s remnants also prompted flood warnings in 34 eastern and middle Tennessee counties, where forecasters predicted up to seven inches of rain.

Ivan came ashore with 130 mph winds near Gulf Shores Beach, Ala., around 2 a.m. CDT Thursday, but it was the Panhandle — squarely in the northeast quadrant of the storm, where the winds are most violent — that took the brunt. More than 2 million residents along a 300-mile stretch of the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Panama City, Fla., were told to clear out as Ivan closed in.

In Escambia County, home to Pensacola and some 300,000 residents, at least seven persons died in the storm, including one who suffered a heart attack at a shelter.

“Some of the houses, everything inside was gone out of one side — like a heavy wave of water hit it and spit the stuff inside of the house out,” Sheriff Ron McNesby said.

Electricity, water and sewer services could take weeks to be restored, Escambia County emergency management chief Michael Hardin said yesterday.

“We’ve got a long haul ahead of us,” Mr. Hardin told NBC’s “Today.”

Off Gulf Shores Highway, in a neighborhood nestled along Pensacola’s Grand Lagoon, at least a half dozen homes and businesses were demolished — some swept clear off their foundations.

The hiss and stench of leaking gas filled the air as stricken residents waded through calf-high water collecting what belongings they could.

Doug Pacitti, a deck hand on a charter fishing boat, lived with his friend and four-year-old son across the street from the bay. On Thursday, he stepped over crumbled bricks, broken dishes and plywood to survey what was left of the house he rented.

Where the kitchen should have been, silverware and skillets sat under an open sky. The refrigerator was propelled into the back yard, where it came to rest under a fallen pine tree.

“Everything’s gone — everything,” said Mr. Pacitti, 31. “Three thousand dollars worth of fishing poles. The antique dishes my grandmother gave me — gone. Even my kid’s toys.”

A storm surge of 10 to 16 feet spawned monster waves. A portion of a bridge on Interstate 10, the major east-west highway through the Panhandle, was washed away.

Search and rescue missions in Florida continued, but no new storm victims were found early Friday, Santa Rosa County spokesman Don Chinery said. A National Guard convoy left Tallahassee early yesterday to deliver food, ice, water and other supplies to hard-hit areas, and counties hoped to get relief centers set up later in the day.

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