- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

MIAMI (AP) — Utility crews scrambled to restore power to more than 1 million customers yesterday as Hurricane Katrina, blamed for six deaths and miles of flooded streets in South Florida, threatened the state with an encore visit.

Katrina was churning in the Gulf of Mexico and on a path to make landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana as early as Monday, possibly as a Category 4 storm.

“I’m so sick of this,” said Pat Jackson, an interior decorator in Homestead, Fla. Her apartment building was flooded with several inches of water during Katrina’s first pass across the state.

“It seems like every other week or month another one comes,” she said.

Scenes of Katrina’s damage were everywhere yesterday — work crews sawing trees crippled by the winds; people canoeing through inundated streets; a 727 cargo plane pushed along a runway fence; sailboats resting askew on a sandy shore.

Yesterday, Gov. Jeb Bush urged residents to monitor the storm and make preparations. If Katrina hit at Category 4 strength, it would mean sustained winds topping 130 mph.

Mr. Bush said he had asked for federal disaster assistance for Miami-Dade and Broward counties, where some residents said they were caught off guard by the gathering storm.

The death toll from Katrina grew to six, including three persons killed by falling trees and two boaters who tried to ride out the storm in their crafts. Authorities had said the toll was seven, but revised it to six after saying one death was not storm-related.

Risk-modeling company AIR Worldwide estimated insured losses from Katrina’s first landfall could approach $600 million.

As it moved out into the Gulf yesterday, Katrina became a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds.

The National Hurricane Center said Katrina was expected to strengthen significantly over warm Gulf waters and warned residents from Florida to southeast Louisiana to be ready.

Katrina’s first swipe across Florida left about 50 homes flooded in Homestead and 40 mobile homes damaged in Broward County.

At a 12-unit apartment complex in Davie, Fla., Beverly Johnson, 41, and her 7-year-old son used pots to hold all the dripping water after their roof caved in during the storm.

“Water came in and then the ceiling collapsed,” she said. “We were really shaken up last night.”

Street flooding and debris strewn on the roads made many streets impassable, a situation made worse by power outages that affected street lights.

An overpass under construction in Miami-Dade County collapsed onto a highway. No injuries were reported, but the freeway — a main east-west thoroughfare — was closed for 20 blocks.

David Carter rode out the storm in his Coconut Grove home, listening as avocados were torn off branches then hit the structure.

“It sounded like tiny bowling balls hitting the top of the roof and rolling down,” he said. “You just heard the big thud.”

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