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Ivan Returns to Take Shot at Texas; Jeanne Sets a Course for Florida

September 24, 2004|From Associated Press

HIGH ISLAND, Texas — Making an encore appearance in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm, Ivan swirled across the Texas coast Thursday night, bringing heavy rain.

Florida residents also had that oh-no-not-again feeling as 105-mph Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be zeroing in this weekend for what would be the state's fourth major storm of the hurricane season.

"We've just reached some level of normalcy and here it comes again. I've never seen anything like this," said an exasperated Margaret McFarlane of Greenacres, Fla., who was without power for 12 days after Hurricane Frances. She was stocking up on water, food and other supplies in preparation for Jeanne.

In all, four tropical weather systems were churning Thursday, with the most immediate threat coming from the 22-day-old Ivan, which will not seem to go away after causing 70 deaths in the Caribbean and 60 more when it plowed into the Gulf Coast and through the South and Middle Atlantic states last week.

Hurricane Ivan broke up after moving up the East Coast, but a piece of it spun back and reformed in the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said Ivan was expected to make a button-hook turn and sit over Houston and the rest of southeastern Texas through the weekend, bringing 4 to 10 inches of rain and the threat of flooding.

"Friday night through Saturday morning, if you run a line through Galveston, Houston and College Station, that area probably is really going to get pounded," said meteorologist Kent Prochazka.

The last time the Houston area saw a tropical storm was June 2001, when Allison hit and then looped back, dropping 36 inches of rain, killing 22 people and paralyzing the nation's fourth-largest city.

Florida was on edge over Hurricane Jeanne, which has caused many deaths in Haiti.

Jeanne was centered about 420 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas on Thursday night. It was barely moving, but forecasters expected it to pick up speed overnight.

"It's time for Floridians to seriously pay attention," said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the hurricane center.

The effects of previous hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan are still being felt across Florida. In the Panhandle, where Ivan came ashore Sept. 16, tens of thousands of people remain without power, a few hundred remain in shelters and residents in Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key still cannot return to their homes.

Girding for the storm, Kennedy Space Center director James Kennedy ordered the base closed to all non-essential personnel today. NASA's spaceport is still trying to repair damage caused by Frances and Charley.

Gaping holes remain in the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, where space shuttles are attached to their booster rockets and external fuel tanks before launch. More than 800 aluminum exterior panels were blown off the 525-foot-high structure.

Meanwhile, 105 mph Hurricane Karl stayed on an open-ocean course that threatened only ships, while Lisa weakened into a tropical depression with top sustained winds near 35 mph far out in the Atlantic.

The hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

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