Hurricane Ivan follows Frances’ trail

WEAKENED but persistent, Tropical Storm Frances swept into north-western Florida yesterday as its successor, Hurricane Ivan, gathered in the Caribbean, threatening Barbados and St Lucia.

Frances, now downgraded from a hurricane, caused flooding and ripped roofs off buildings throughout a wide swath of central and southern Florida.

About six million people lost power and at least four people were killed.

Its path crossed some of the area hit by Hurricane Charley, which killed 27 people and caused an estimated $7 billion (€5.9b) in insured damage.

One risk assessment company estimated insured losses from Frances could reach $9b (€7.4b).

More than 13 inches of rain fell along Florida’s central east coast, flooding some areas four feet deep, before Frances entered the Gulf of Mexico early yesterday. In its wake, boats and mobile homes were mangled, trees and power lines were toppled.

Parts of downtown Tampa were flooded yesterday.

In Daytona Beach, one of the hardest-hit cities, roofs were torn off several small hotels and the Peabody Auditorium, where the London Symphony Orchestra appears annually.

The sign across the coastal highway proclaiming Daytona The World’s Most Famous Beach was destroyed.

Most of Daytona Beach and about a third of the state’s 17 million residents remained without power today.

The National Hurricane Centre said Frances showed signs of redeveloping into a hurricane over the warm gulf before striking the Panhandle. Evacuations began in four Panhandle counties.

And following Florida’s bouts with Frances and Charley, Ivan had become the fifth Atlantic hurricane of the year, growing rapidly to a Category 3 storm. By mid afternoon BST, Ivan was about 435 miles from Barbados with top sustained winds near 125 mph.

Officials said it was too soon to say whether Ivan would hit the south-eastern United States, but Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess warned: “You might want to be smart about whether you take down your shutters.”

Airports reopened but Tallahassee International Airport was closed as Frances approached the Panhandle.

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