Ivan slowly fizzles, Jeanne eyes Bahamas - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ivan slowly fizzles, Jeanne eyes Bahamas

September 16, 2004

Undated-- Thursday's developments associated with Hurricane Ivan: Ivan slammed ashore early Thursday in Gulf Shores, Ala., with winds of 130 mph. It weakened as it moved inland, but remained a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 mph more than four hours after landfall.

Gulf Shores Mayor David Bodenhamer said streets were flooded and trees and power lines were down everywhere. Bodenhamer and the mayor of nearby Orange Beach, Ala., said it wasn't safe and closed re-entry to residents until further notice.

Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, warned that the misery would spread as Ivan moves across the Southeast in the hours and days ahead. "I hate to think about what's going to happen inland," he said.

A hurricane warning for New Orleans was lifted early Thursday after it was spared the worst of the storm. However, a hurricane warning remained in effect from the mouth of the Pearl River along the Louisiana-Mississippi state line to Apalachicola, Fla. At least 260,000 homes and businesses were without power in Alabama, 36,500 in Louisiana and 50,000 in Mississippi. More than 300,000 customers were without power in the four westernmost Florida Panhandle counties.

Florida was still trying to restore power to about 160,000 hit by hurricanes Charley and Frances. National Hurricane Center forecasters said land east of where Ivan's eye passed was experiencing storm surge of 10 to 16 feet, topped by large and dangerous battering waves.

 In Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a nursing home lost its generator power and reported that six patients desperately needed oxygen. An emergency medical crew drove through the 90 mph winds to deliver portable oxygen tanks.

 The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for as far away as North Carolina, which suffered heavy flooding last week from the remnants of Hurricane Frances.

The heavy rain also could trigger mud and rock slides. Twelve deaths were blamed on Ivan including that of an 8-year-old girl. Eight people were killed in Florida, most of them when tornadoes hit their homes. Four ailing evacuees reportedly died after being taken from their storm-threatened south Louisiana homes to safer parts of the state.

More trouble lingered out in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Jeanne became a hurricane Thursday in the Caribbean as moved westward across the north coast of Puerto Rico with 80 mph winds. It could be near Florida's east coast as early as the weekend.

Forecasters say Hurricane Jeanne is continuing to move toward the Bahamas. Jeanne is now centered about 80 miles east-northeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Movement is just north of due west at about seven miles an hour, keeping it along the coast for much of the coming 24 hours. Movement to the west-northwest is expected to resume.

Top sustained winds are at about 80 miles an hour, though Jeanne is expected to weaken to a tropical storm while so close to land. Intensification is expected to occur again tomorrow.

There's a hurricane warning posted for the southeastern Bahamas and for the Turks and Caicos Islands. For now, the center of the official forecast track keeps the system off the U.S. coast through early next week.

But the larger forecast cone includes much of Florida, given the unpredictability of a hurricane this far in advance. Jeanne is centered at latitude 18.8 north, longitude 68.7 west.

updated at 4:37PM by dave.miller@walb.com