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Tropical Storm Frances Hits Northwest Florida  - 2004-09-06

After crossing the Florida peninsula and coastal portions of the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Frances struck the Florida panhandle. Frances, an extremely slow-moving storm caused heavy flooding and at least two deaths in Florida. The storm also caused several deaths in the Bahamas. Initial damage estimates indicate that Frances did not cause the sort of damage that Hurricane Charley inflicted last month in parts of southwest Florida.

The storm system known as Frances moved into the southeastern United States after drenching Florida with more than 30 centimeters of rain.

Heavy winds associated with the storm brought down trees and power lines as the storm moved in from the Atlantic Ocean and across the state. Cragin Mosteller a spokesperson for Florida's Department of Emergency Operations says Frances left so much debris in its path, that Floridians should exercise caution before leaving their shelters.

"Well right now our top priority is making sure that residents and people know they should stay where they are," she said. "We have many people evacuated to other states and throughout our state and we are working to clear the roads and make it safe for them, but at this point it is not. The majority of casualties happen following a storm, not during a storm, and so we are asking people to stay in place and stay safe. Stay out of standing water that can have downed power lines or sharp debris."

Frances took several days to reach Florida and more than 80,000 people spent several days in shelters, first waiting for the storm to arrive, and then waiting for it to pass. Typical of many was one man who told a television interviewer of his frustration waiting in a shelter for several days.

"It is just becoming a hassle, with work and my schedule being ruined by the storm," he said. "Plans get canceled and it just gets in the way."

Frances was the second major hurricane to strike Florida in less than a month, but it did not cause the sort of catastrophic damage that Hurricane Charley inflicted on parts of southwest Florida in August.

After Frances struck, President Bush declared Florida a disaster area, making storm-hit residents eligible for federal aid. About 8,000 Florida National Guard troops have been mobilized to assist in recovery efforts and prevent looting.

More than one million Floridians are without power, and authorities say it will be days before power is restored to some areas. Cragin Mosteller of Florida's Department of Emergency Operations says Floridans are focusing on recovering from both hurricanes.

"You know the storms were different," she said. "Frances moved very slowly, and Charley moved a little bit more quickly. Right now we are focusing on recovery efforts from both storms."

Floridans are also keeping an eye on the Caribbean where Hurricane Ivan is now threatening the islands of the eastern Caribbean. Forecasters say Ivan could follow the path of Frances and threaten The Bahamas and Florida by the end of the week.