Thousands in Florida remain in shelters after Jeanne; stormï¿½s remnants batter mid-Atlantic
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Since Labor Day weekend, Linda Baker and her 4-year-old daughter have been forced to stay at a Palm Beach County shelter, the victims of a one-two punch. Hurricane Frances ripped away half of the roof of their trailer, and last weekend Jeanne finished it off.
Baker would move if she could afford it, but sheï¿½s hampered by a $500 monthly rent until her Greenacres trailer is bulldozed off the property. Her $600 check from the federal government covered only new clothes, shoes and a one-night stay at a motel.
ï¿½Weï¿½re just fed up with everything here,ï¿½ Baker said. ï¿½Itï¿½s just so hard to get ahead.ï¿½
In storm-battered Florida, more than 3,900 people were staying in shelters Wednesday while nearly 1.3 million homes and businesses were without power. In another sign of the toll of four hurricanes, at least one as-yet unidentified insurance company was seeking state help because it was overwhelmed by claims.
The stormï¿½s remnants also were destructive, dumping torrential rain and spawning tornadoes. In Virginia, a 51-year-old woman was swept from her mobile home and drowned after more than a foot of rain fell and turned roads into rivers.
In western Maryland, nearly a half-foot of rain fell Tuesday. Emergency workers rescued several people from vehicles stranded by high water, and turned around a loaded Frederick County school bus trapped by an eroding roadway.
Jeanne also dumped more than 6 inches of rain in the Philadelphia area, where a woman died after floodwaters swept her from a bus stop Tuesday. And about 400 people were evacuated from a commuter train after floodwaters appeared to be undermining the ground beneath the tracks.
In Cherry Hill, N.J., 11 buildings and several cars were damaged Tuesday by a tornado that left a two-mile swath of damage. And in Delaware, the National Weather Service confirmed another tornado Tuesday night in New Castle County, which ripped roofs off businesses and lifted a car off a highway. No serious injuries were reported.
The stormï¿½s remnants were moving off the mid-Atlantic states and over the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday morning.
President Bush is making his fourth post-hurricane visit to Florida, with plans to tour a damaged citrus grove in Lake Wales on Wednesday afternoon. Even before the latest hurricane, the stateï¿½s agricultural industry sustained an estimated $2 billion in damage to the stateï¿½s crops from Hurricanes Charley and Frances.
Over the past six weeks, hurricanes have damaged more than one of every five Florida homes. The insurance industry expects claims this season to surpass 2 million, easily surpassing the 700,000 claims filed 12 years ago after Hurricane Andrew, the nationï¿½s most destructive hurricane.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees insurance regulation, estimated insured losses from this seasonï¿½s four storms to be $18 billion, or $3 billion more than Andrew. He said Jeanne added $6 billion in insured losses to nearly $12 billion estimated from hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan.
ï¿½These four storms are a much larger problem than Andrew was for the state,ï¿½ Gallagher said.
Jeanne killed at least six people in Florida last weekend, pummeling the Atlantic coast with winds of 120 mph.
On Tuesday, a garbage truck driver assisting in the cleanup effort was electrocuted in Port St. Lucie after his vehicle ran into a low-hanging power line and he grabbed a handrail, police said.
The havoc caused by the four hurricanes prompted the largest relief effort ever undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The president has requested an additional $7.1 billion from Congress to help Florida and other Southeastern states recover from the storms, bringing the total possible funding to at least $12.2 billion.
The hurricanes have taken an emotional toll, as well. Gov. Jeb Bush said domestic violence reports are spiking in areas hit by the storms.
ï¿½Nerves are frayed and frustration levels run high,ï¿½ Bush said. ï¿½The stress of rebuilding a home or business can be overwhelming.ï¿½
But even amid the hardships, some positive signs are emerging. In Indian River County, schools were shuttered until at least Monday, but football practice was on.
ï¿½Our students are out of a routine of going to school,ï¿½ said school Superintendent Tom Maher, ï¿½and we want to return to normalcy as much as possible.ï¿½