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Ivan Pounds Jamaica as Florida Prepares for 3rd Hurricane Hit
2004 09 11

By Jesse Westbrook, Bloomberg

View of a Kingston street during rain and winds brought by Hurricane Ivan September 11, 2004. Deadly Hurricane Ivan battered Jamaica with powerful winds and torrential rains but spared the island the worst of its wrath as the eye skirted the shore and headed for the Cayman Islands and Cuba. Photo by Daniel Aguilar/Reuters
Hurricane Ivan, with winds of 150 mph, pounded Jamaica as it moved toward Florida, where residents prepared for the third powerful storm to hit the state in a month.

Waves as much as 8 feet (2 meters) higher than normal are hitting Jamaica's southern coast, while heavy rain ``possibly causing life-threatening flash floods and mudslides'' is expected along Ivan's path, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in its advisory at 8 a.m.

Ivan's center was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Jamaica's Montego Bay at 8 a.m. Florida time. The storm is moving west-northwest at about 8 mph (13 kph) on a track to move near the Cayman Islands in 24 hours.

``They're still getting battered along the west coast,'' said Hugh Cobb, a hurricane center meteorologist. ``The eye is off the southwest coast of Jamaica and slowing moving away.''

Ivan's wind speed has slowed slightly from its earlier status as a Category 5 storm, which is the strongest on the five-tier. Category 5 hurricanes have winds greater than 155 mph, and can cause buildings to collapse, destroy mobile homes and flatten all trees and road signs.

The storms are accompanied by a surge of seawater exceeding 18 feet and require evacuation of low-lying areas within 5 miles to 10 miles of the shore.

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency, according to the official state Web site. Yesterday, Monroe County began phased evacuations of all the Florida Keys' 80,000 residents.

Tuesday Night or Wednesday

``It's projected to hit Florida early Wednesday morning or late Tuesday night,'' west of the state capital Tallahassee, said Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida Emergency Operations Center. ``That track can obviously change between now and Tuesday or Wednesday, but the whole state of Florida is still in the projected path of the hurricane.''

Florida hasn't endured three hurricanes in one season for 40 years. Hurricane Charley hit Florida's west coast Aug. 13 with winds of 145 mph, and Frances hit the state's eastern coast on Sunday before moving across the peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico and coming ashore again Monday on the panhandle.

Cuba, still recovering from Charley, remained under a hurricane watch from Ivan. A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within the next 36 hours.

Lowe's Cos., the world's No. 2 home-improvement chain, has shipped 300 truckloads of plywood to Florida and people are buying batteries, flashlights, barbeque grills and generators at a ``very rapid rate,'' spokeswoman Chris Ahearn said.

Limited Supplies

With stocks of plywood tight, Lowe's has placed limits on how many sheets customers can buy. Generator supplies are also tight, Ahearn said in an interview.

``We are allowing people to buy a limited amount, say 10 or 12 sheets of plywood, just so we can make sure there is enough to go around,'' she said. ``Generators are still an issue. We get them as they are produced and they are heading straight to Florida.''

Home Depot Inc., the world's largest home-improvement chain, has moved ``thousands'' of trucks in and out of Florida carrying plywood, generators, tarps and other emergency supplies, spokesman Don Harrison said. The company has sent 1,200 employees from states including Georgia and Alabama to deal with ``lines out the door'' at Florida stores.

``This is flat-out the biggest re-supply and relief mission in the history of our company,'' he said in an interview.

Ivan left an estimated 60,000 people homeless in Grenada after hitting the island nation Tuesday and 8,000 are in emergency shelters, according to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency.

At least 17 deaths have been confirmed in Grenada and one in Tobago, the Caribbean disaster agency said. At least 37 deaths across the southern Caribbean have been blamed on Ivan, the Associated Press reported.

Trees Down

Ivan may cost Jamaica's insurers $1 billion, said Hemant Shah, chief executive officer of Risk Management Solutions Inc. The storm began blowing down banana and coconut trees yesterday and causing other damage to the nation's agriculture industry.

The last time three hurricanes hit Florida in the same year was 1964, according to the hurricane center.

Hurricane Dora struck Mayport, near Jacksonville, while Cleo hit just north of Miami and Isbell landed in the Fort Meyers area.

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