Hurricane Jeanne pushed across Florida, launching leftover storm debris, tearing apart weakened buildings, cutting power for millions, and leaving the nation's fourth most populous state dazed by relentless pounding from four hurricanes in six weeks.At least six people died during and after the storm.
Densely populated South Florida, especially Broward and Miami-Dade counties, was spared the worst. Broward County reported scattered power outages and downed trees, but for most residents, the storm was less destructive and unnerving than Hurricane Frances had been three weeks earlier.
Palm Beach County was not so fortunate: More than two-thirds of its Florida Power & Light Co. customers were left in the dark and more than 12,000 people sought refuge in 16 shelters, including 700 who remained at four county shelters as late as Sunday.
Jeanne dealt a harsh blow during the meanest hurricane season in Florida history.
"I'm a tough guy, but not that tough," said Robert Pierson as he sorted through his scattered possessions in what remained of his home in A Garden Walk, a mobile-home park west of Riviera Beach. The park was hit by a tornado in 2003, Hurricane Frances on Sept. 5, and now Hurricane Jeanne.
"One more of these and we're leaving," he said.
In Brevard County, firefighter Troy Marshall canvassed neighborhoods with his partner, a scene echoed in every community in Jeanne's wake. They knocked on doors, asked if anyone needed help, and then used orange spray paint to mark a large "X" on each home they visited.
They came across Mary Musser, who moved into her mobile home three days after Hurricane Charley struck Florida's west coast. She evacuated during Frances, but said she didn't have the strength to do it again. So she stayed alone in her two-bedroom trailer -- a decision she quickly came to regret.
When the power went out at about 8 p.m. Saturday, she said she lit a candle, held a flashlight and read the Bible. At one point, she said she called 911 for help, but it was too late for anyone to rescue her.
"So I said that if the good Lord wants me, he can take me," said Musser. "I was feeling the wall, and I said, `Dear God, please don't let the wall fall.' "
The wall stood, but sections of her roof peeled away and many of her windows shattered.
"This is catastrophic," Musser said.
A major Category 3 hurricane with shrieking winds up to 120 mph, Jeanne made landfall just before midnight at Hutchinson Island near Stuart, about 35 miles north of West Palm Beach. Almost 400 miles across, the storm sliced across waterlogged Central Florida to Tampa, dumping about 8 inches of rain, then turned north and weakened into a tropical storm.
Jeanne was neither as big as Frances nor as powerful as Ivan and Charley, but the wide swath of destruction added to Florida's misery. Jeanne's predecessors killed at least 102 people in the United States, and left an estimated $15 to $20 billion in damage.
Across Florida, Hurricane Jeanne closed airports, seaports, theme parks and NASA's space center at Cape Canaveral, where winds clocked at 79 mph left gaping holes in the huge building where the space shuttles are assembled.
In Miami, a man was electrocuted when he touched a downed power line. A Boynton Beach couple died when their Nissan Pathfinder plunged into 40 feet of water beside the Sawgrass Expressway in Coconut Creek.
In Brevard County, a man, 60, who apparently drank too much at a hurricane party was found lying face down on the floor after the house flooded. An autopsy would determine whether he drowned or died of alcohol poisoning. Another man died, apparently after driving his pickup truck into a ditch in Palm Bay.
And, in Clay County, a 15-year-old died when he was struck by a falling tree.
Mind-boggling numbers amassed across Florida on Sunday told the broader story:
Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency for the fourth time in six weeks; evacuation orders had been issued in 31 counties; more than 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power; shelters housed about 59,000 people, and more than 3,607 state National Guard troops were deployed.
It will take days, perhaps weeks, to calculate the damage and get the power turned back on in some counties.
President Bush also declared Florida a major disaster area, making it easier for residents and businesses to receive federal aid. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding to the swarm of storms with the largest deployment in its history, eclipsing the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California and the 2001 terrorist attacks, FEMA Director Michael Brown said Sunday.
"You're going to have some areas that have been hit once, twice and sometimes maybe three times and just as you think you're making headway on debris removal for example, you've got to go back in," Brown said. "That's very frustrating, I know, for those who live in those communities."
More than 5,000 relief workers from 15 states are in Florida to assess the damage, and some $360 million in FEMA aid already has been disbursed.
There's also the damage that can't be measured--jangled nerves, fatigue and despair as traumatized residents stagger under repeated onslaughts. Evidence of hurricane fatigue was everywhere the paths of more than one tempest had crossed.
All along U.S. 1 in St. Lucie and Brevard Counties, those who survived with no damage from Frances lost something this time. And those who suffered damage three weeks ago feared they'd lost everything.
"I'm scared my whole house is gone," said Lois Maggard, a Sebastian resident who lost part of her roof during Frances. She fled to the nearby Pennwood Motor Lodge thinking she would be safer there. If the motel made it through Frances, she told herself, it would survive Jeanne.
"But it was howling all night long," she said. "There was like a sonic boom."
It was the sound of the lobby's roof and walls ripping apart and hurtling about 75 feet.
"I think I'm bloody lucky to be alive," said motel manager Susan Cuevas.
In Barefoot Bay, a trailer park in the town of Micco, in southern Brevard County, Jeanne finished what Frances started: aluminum siding twisted around trees, dozens of homes were crushed and debris cluttered roads.
In Vero Beach, residents awoke to find the Indian River flooding their streets. The water in some areas was so high that boats were floating off trailers. Even emergency vehicles assessing damage stalled and needed to be towed away.
"It was horrible," said Maribel Viveros, whose Vero Beach house lost windows, shutters and roof tiles. Viveros and her family fled to Gainesville during Frances. But because their house survived unscathed, they thought Jeanne would pose no danger.
"We didn't think it would be this bad," she said, even as the wind continued to push debris onto the road Sunday.
"A lot more people stayed," said Zigmund York, who lost his roof. "During Frances, this place was like a ghost town. We're getting sick and tired of these storms."
James Harp spent a sleepless night cringing as debris -- wood, tiles, and pieces of aluminum -- banged against his roof.
"I'm not staying the next time. I'm fed up with this, I'm done," he said.
As a tropical storm, Jeanne earlier caused flooding that killed more than 1,500 people in Haiti. The storm appeared to be drifting out to sea before it looped back, crossed over the Bahamas and gained strength, adding to Florida's misery.
In Broward County, Mayor Ilene Lieberman and Sheriff Ken Jenne said initial assessments showed only limited wind damage and little flooding. The largest impact was power outages, but utility crews were rapidly restoring power on Sunday, and all the lights were expected to be back on today.
During Hurricane Frances, 2.8 million FPL customers lost power. Many outages in Broward lasted several days.
During Jeanne, the strongest winds recorded in Broward County were 71 mph, a notch under hurricane force.
"Broward County is lucky ...," Lieberman said.
Deerfield Beach, near the Palm Beach County line, felt Jeanne's wrath the most -- 60 trees fell across roads and about 15,000 residents lost power for about eight hours. Deerfield's pier, pounded by Hurricane Frances, sustained more deck and railing damage, but nothing that can't be fixed, said City Manager Larry Deetjen. No estimates were available Sunday.
About 10 businesses sustained awning and dock damage, the most severe at the landmark Cove Restaurant.
A firefighter needed stitches when he was struck by roof debris in Pompano Beach. Two families were left homeless when a roof collapsed at an apartment building in Pompano Beach, said Fire Department spokeswoman Sandra King. Members of another family were forced to leave their home when a tree crashed through their roof.
Other cities throughout the county reported light to minimal damage.