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What's Left of Ivan Is a Huge, Deadly Deluge

Major flooding hits the eastern U.S. At least 11 people die; hundreds of thousands lose power.

September 18, 2004|Rennie Sloan and John-Thor Dahlburg | Times Staff Writers

ATLANTA — Now a sopping, sprawling tropical depression, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan battered the eastern United States from Georgia to Pennsylvania on Friday with winds and drenching rain, killing at least 11 people.

The storm spawned multiple tornadoes Friday evening that spun across northern Virginia and grounded planes at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.

In Florida's Panhandle, rescuers clawed through the wreckage of the third hurricane to strike the state in little more than a month.

"We expect Ivan to be a catastrophic event, [and] we have search and rescue on the ground" in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, said Cragin Mosteller, a spokeswoman for the state's emergency operations office. As many as 14 people in Florida were reported killed when Ivan stormed ashore from the Gulf of Mexico early Thursday near the Alabama-Florida line.

Moving northeast at about 18 mph Friday, the soggy remnants of the Category 3 hurricane caused major flooding in Asheville, N.C., swept away homes, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people and sparked flood warnings along the Appalachian mountain chain from northern Alabama to southern New York.

Georgia authorities reported four Ivan-related deaths, including those of a 6-year-old girl in White County who was swept away by storm water in a culvert and an 86-year-old woman who burned down her house after she lit a candle when her electricity went out. Many roads, especially in Georgia's northeast, were washed out.

By 8 a.m. EDT Friday, the storm had soaked Atlanta with more than 5 inches of rain, and the Georgia capital and its environs suffered serious flooding, wind damage and downed trees, some of which took power lines with them.

The Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek broke their banks, causing frightened residents in the upscale Atlanta suburb of Vinings to call the Fire Department for rescue by boat. Peachtree Creek crested at 22 feet, more than 5 feet above normal.

"The flood damage was extensive," said Bernard Hicks, operations officer for the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency. Hicks said he had recorded more than 40 pages of reports of downed trees alone.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue wrote President Bush requesting expedited federal disaster assistance.

In Harriman, Tenn., a police officer died Thursday night when his patrol car hydroplaned on a rain-slicked road and crashed. The train station and much of the business district in Spring City, Tenn., were flooded, and in surrounding Rhea County, 50 homes were damaged and at least 150 people sought safety in shelters, said Kurt Pickering, a spokesman for the state's emergency management agency.

In the mountains of western North Carolina, six deaths were blamed on the storm, including that of a Henderson County resident who died when a tree fell on a house, said Sgt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the state's emergency response team. More than 200 roads in North Carolina were closed, including Interstate 40, a major cross-country thoroughfare.

The National Weather Service said Friday evening that it was tracking numerous tornadoes racing across northern Virginia. One of them touched down in Chantilly, near the Dulles airport, damaging homes, and flights were delayed.

The weather was so severe Friday night that Air Force Two, carrying Vice President Dick Cheney, was diverted from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Dayton, Ohio.

Northern Virginia, Maryland and metropolitan Washington were placed under a tornado warning. Meteorologists said the twisters were part of a thunder cell created by the storm as it pushed north.

Dawn Eischen, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said the weather service had confirmed 15 tornadoes as of 7:30 p.m. No deaths or injuries were reported, Eischen said, but in the Richmond area, an industrial park and several homes were destroyed.

By today, the heart of the elongated tropical depression should arrive over the Virginia Tidewater region, and the storm is expected to dump rain on much of the East Coast, said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"It'll be raining from North Carolina all the way up to Maine," Blake said.

Ivan killed at least 38 people in the United States and is blamed for at least 70 deaths in the Caribbean.

In Florida, early estimates of damage to insured property ranged from $6 billion to $10 billion, said Tami Torres, spokeswoman for the state Department of Financial Services. That figure did not include damage to infrastructure.

"I've seen it described as as wide as Frances with the impact of Charley," Torres said, referring to the two hurricanes that mauled much of Florida in the last five weeks.

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