Five killed as hurricane hits Florida shores

FIVE people were killed, a family of five was missing at sea and more than a million homes and businesses lost power after Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore in southern Florida early yesterday.

The storm’s wind then zoomed to 100mph as Katrina moved over the Gulf of Mexico.

It reached Category 2 status yesterday morning, and forecasters said it could become a major hurricane - with top sustained winds above 110mph - by the time it reaches the Gulf Coast early next week, perhaps with winds of at least 131mph. Forecasters said it could be headed anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana.

Katrina’s first Florida land-strike came along the Miami-Dade and Broward county line. Rain fell in horizontal sheets, seas were estimated at 15 feet and sustained wind hit 80mph, with gusts reaching 92mph. Up to 11.5 inches of rain fell on Miami-Dade County. Crews scrambled to clear roads and repair utility lines around the region.

Katrina briefly weakened into a tropical storm over land, but rejuvenated over the gulf’s warm waters to become a hurricane again early yesterday.

Governor Jeb Bush urged residents of the Panhandle and north-western Florida - areas hit by Hurricane Ivan last year and Hurricane Dennis this year - to make preparations. He said he had asked for federal disaster assistance for Miami-Dade and Broward.

The hurricane was hindering the coast guard’s search for a family of five who went out boating on Thursday morning from Marathon, in the Keys, and never reached their destination of Cape Coral on Florida’s south-western coast.

Three people were killed by falling trees, and a 79-year-old man died when his car struck a tree, all in Broward County, officials said.

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