A day after Hurricane Katrina delivered a soggy surprise wallop to Miami's southwestern suburbs, leaving some neighborhoods underwater...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — A day after Hurricane Katrina delivered a soggy surprise wallop to Miami’s southwestern suburbs, leaving some neighborhoods underwater, emergency planners were bracing yesterday for a potential second landfall by the hurricane as an even more dangerous storm.
After crossing the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, where its winds and downpours Thursday night led to widespread flooding and at least six deaths, Katrina reached the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where it absorbed enough energy to boost the speed of its sustained winds to 100 mph. Forecasters said the storm, a Category 2 hurricane, might intensify as it turned north and headed toward the Gulf Coast.
“We are looking at major hurricane: a strong Category 3 or perhaps a 4 at landfall,” said Ben Nelson, state meteorologist for the Florida Division of Emergency Management in Tallahassee, the capital. “We expect it to hit landfall sometime on Monday.”
A Category 3 hurricane carries highly destructive sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph; a Category 4 has even more damaging winds of 131 to 155 mph. As Katrina’s course stood yesterday, it could make its second landfall from Florida’s Panhandle to New Orleans, Nelson said.
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In Florida’s Panhandle, officials and residents were monitoring what could become the third big hurricane to strike their area in less than a year. The region was hammered in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan and last month by Hurricane Dennis.
“We’re still cleaning up the debris from Hurricane Dennis,” Sonya Smith, spokeswoman for Escambia County, Fla., government, said from Pensacola. “There are still tree limbs on the roadside and homes with blue [tarp] roofs. We have buildings which have lost one, even two walls, that haven’t been repaired. It’s just been too soon.”
Risk-modeling company AIR Worldwide estimated insured losses from Katrina’s first landfall could approach $600 million.
A LOOK at the impact, so far, of Hurricane Katrina on southeast Florida yesterday:
At least six people were killed, including three by falling trees.
About 1.4 million customers lost power. Florida Power & Light said about 1 million residential and business customers remained without power last night.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport reopened with limited flights; Miami International Airport also reopened, but full operations were not expected to be restored until today.
MTV called off pre-awards festivities for the Video Music Awards, scheduled for tomorrow in Miami.
The Port of Miami was closed to vessel traffic.
The Associated Press
Yesterday, a family that had gone sailing as Katrina approached the Florida coast was hoisted aboard a Coast Guard helicopter and flown to safety. Edward and Bettina Larsen and their three children, ages 4, 14 and 17, had been stranded near their beached boat about 16 miles north of the tip of Florida.
After the rescue, the family declined medical assistance and was taken to the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.
Scenes of Katrina’s impact were everywhere: work crews sawing trees crippled by the winds; people canoeing through inundated streets; a Boeing 727 cargo plane pushed along a runway fence; sailboats resting askew on a sandy shore.
On Thursday, Katrina, then a Category 1 hurricane, moved westward for most of the day but took an unexpected southerly jog, catching many residents of southern Miami-Dade County unaware. They counted on the storm to soak areas in Broward County to the north.
The hurricane’s heaviest rainfall, 13 ¼ inches, was registered by a rain gauge in Homestead, the South Florida Water Management District said. Elsewhere in Miami-Dade County, between 6 and 10 inches of rain fell.
Two boaters died in the Dinner Key area of Miami, one from injuries suffered when Katrina tossed around his 25-foot boat, the other after his houseboat capsized.
Broward County authorities reported four hurricane-related deaths: a woman hit by a falling tree in Davie, a 79-year-old man killed in a car crash in Cooper City, a 25-year-old man crushed by a falling tree as he sat in his car in Fort Lauderdale and a Plantation man struck by a tree as he surveyed storm damage to his home.
Sporadic rain continued throughout South Florida yesterday, and authorities advised people to stay off the streets, many littered by downed tree branches, power lines and other storm debris.
More than 1 million homes and businesses were without power last night. “At the height of the storm, 1.4 million customers were impacted,” said Steve Stengel, a spokesman for Florida Power & Light. By yesterday, Stengel said, electricity had been restored to about 300,000 customers.
Jarvie reported from Atlanta and Dahlburg from Florida. Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.