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Hurricane Jeanne takes aim at Florida
Updated: 2004-09-25 01:19

Hurricane Jeanne trekked westward Friday on a path that could lead to Florida's east coast by Sunday, setting off another round of storm preparations in a state still reeling from three earlier strikes.

Hurricane Jeanne is seen on a computer monitor, Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The hurricane is expected to make landfall this weekend. [AP]

Jeanne was already blamed for more than 1,100 deaths in Haiti, where it hit over the weekend as a tropical storm and caused major flooding. It could drop up to 10 inches of rain along its path in Florida, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. Parts of the state are already waterlogged, and flooding could again be a major problem there.

Fears of flying debris and power outages sent shoppers scurrying to grocery and hardware stores for supplies that had run low before the last storms. State and federal officials geared up for another disaster response.

"I know people are frustrated, they're tired of all this," Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday. "Trust me, their governor is as well."

A hurricane watch was issued early Friday for most of the state's eastern coast, from Florida City to St. Augustine. A watch means hurricane conditions with wind of at least 74 mph are possible within 36 hours.

Jeanne could hit just over a week after Hurricane Ivan thrashed the Panhandle Sept. 16. Ivan and its predecessors, Charley and Frances, caused billions of dollars of damage and were blamed for at least 70 deaths in the state.

The only other time four hurricanes have been known to hit the same state in one season was in Texas in 1886, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield said.

An exasperated Margaret McFarlane of Greenacres, who was without power for 12 days after Hurricane Frances, found herself back at the store to stock up on water and food.

"We've already refilled our refrigerators, gotten the debris out of the streets and it's going to happen all over again. I'm not sure how much more people can take," she said.

Bush noted Jeanne could threaten during Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, which begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday. During that period, observant Jews usually do not work or carry cash and many do not travel by car, which could hamper their storm preparations.

"We ask those who are keeping their faith and their strict Orthodox practices to prepare early," Bush said.

At 11 a.m., Jeanne was centered about 485 miles east of Miami, moving west at 9 mph, the hurricane center in Miami said. The storm had top sustained wind of 100 mph and could strengthen as it reaches warmer water closer to Florida's coast. Hurricane-force wind extended 45 miles from the center, and tropical storm wind extended 150 miles.

An eventual turn to the northwest was predicted, but it was unclear if that would happen before Jeanne reached Florida. Computer models showed possible landfall anywhere from South Florida to Cape Canaveral, where Kennedy Space Center director James Kennedy ordered the base closed Friday to all nonessential personnel.

NASA's spaceport is still trying to repair damage caused by Frances. Holes remain in the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, where space shuttles are attached to their booster rockets and external fuel tanks before launch.

The Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers were considering moving up their game a day to Saturday.

After looping into the Atlantic and back into the Gulf of Mexico following its initial strike on the Alabama-Florida coast as a hurricane last week, Tropical Storm Ivan washed ashore near the Texas-Louisiana line Thursday night, bringing heavy rain to both sides of the border.

While the storm was expected to dissipate as it drifts into Texas this weekend, its rains are expected to persist and cause problems, and flood-prone Houston is in its projected path.

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