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Four Dead As Katrina Plows Through Florida

August 26, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Hurricane Katrina flooded streets, darkened homes and felled trees with wind gusts reaching 92 mph as it plowed through South Florida and emerged over the Gulf of Mexico early Friday. Four people were killed and 1.3 million customers were left without power.

Weather officials said flooding was the main concern as the storm dropped up to 15 inches on parts of Miami-Dade County. Katrina’s plodding pace meant that strong wind and heavy rain would continue to plague throughout the day.

Rain fell in horizontal sheets, seas were estimated at 15 feet and sustained winds were measured at 80 mph as the hurricane made landfall Thursday night along the Miami-Dade and Broward line. Florida Power & Light said the vast majority of people without electricity were in the two counties.

In an oceanfront condominium in Hallandale, Carolyne and Carter McHyman said heavy downpours pelted their windows after the eye passed.

``It’s been horrible,″ Carolyne McHyman said. ``Basically all our windows are leaking. We just keep mopping up and taping the windows, mopping up and taping again.″

Katrina weakened into a tropical storm while over land, but strengthened over the warm waters of the gulf Friday and became a hurricane again with top sustained winds of 75 mph. At 5 a.m. EDT, Katrina was about 50 miles north-northeast of Key West and emerging over the Gulf of Mexico, heading west at 5 mph.

Forecasters said Katrina would likely strengthen and perhaps make a second landfall in the Florida Panhandle early next week.

Gov. Jeb Bush urged residents of the Panhandle and northwest Florida _ areas hit by Hurricane Ivan last year and Hurricane Dennis this year _ to monitor the storm.

Katrina left a trail of mayhem in its wake along the southeast coast.

In Key Biscayne, dozens of families were forced to evacuate their homes after they became flooded under 3 feet of water.

Three mobile home parks in Davie sustained considerable damage, including lost roofs. One person was trapped inside a mobile home, but officials did not know whether the person was injured, according to the Broward Emergency Management Agency.

An overpass under construction in Miami-Dade County collapsed onto a highway, authorities said. No injuries were reported, but the freeway _ a main east-west thoroughfare _ was closed for 20 blocks.

In the Florida Keys, a tornado damaged a hanger and a number of airplanes at the airport in Marathon, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Two nearby homes were also damaged. In Tavernier in the upper Keys, part of the roof of a lumber company collapsed, deputies said.

Three people were killed by falling trees: A man in his 20s in Fort Lauderdale was crushed by a falling tree as he sat alone in his car; a 54-year-old man was killed by a falling tree in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Plantation; and a woman who was struck by a tree died at a hospital in Hollywood.

A 79-year-old man in Cooper City also died when his car struck a tree, officials said.

Three storm-related trauma patients were being treated in Hollywood, including a driver in critical condition after a tree fell on his car, said Frank Sacco, CEO of Memorial Healthcare System.

The hurricane emptied the usually bustling streets of Miami Beach, a tourist haven with its nightlife and restaurants. The city is hosting celebrities and partygoers in town for the MTV Video Music Awards. MTV called off its pre-awards festivities Thursday and Friday.

``It’s like a ghost town out here,″ said Mark Darress, concierge at The Astor Hotel in Miami Beach.

Yet dozens of surfers and spectators lined the beaches to take advantage of the massive waves on the normally placid seas.

``This is the best of both worlds because it’ll bring great waves, but it is not at all dangerous,″ said surfer Kurt Johnston, 22, of Davie.

Tourists and others hoping to get out of town before the storm were stranded as airlines canceled flights at Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, which both closed Thursday night.

Katrina, which formed Wednesday over the Bahamas, was the second hurricane to strike Florida this year and the first to make a direct hit on Broward County since a destructive Category 4 hurricane in 1947.

Four hurricanes hit Florida last year, causing an estimated $46 billion in damage across the country.

Katrina is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. That’s seven more than typically have formed by now in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane center said. The season ends Nov. 30.

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On the Net:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

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