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U.S. death toll at least 24 in Ivan's wake

Mudslide in western North Carolina destroys houses, killing 4

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley tours the storm-damaged coast Friday.
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Alabamans begin the cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.

Gulf Shores, Alabama experienced significant flooding.

Hurricane Ivan slams Blountstown, Florida
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Hurricane Ivan

GULF SHORES, Alabama (CNN) -- After wreaking havoc on the Alabama and Florida coasts, the remnants of Hurricane Ivan punished the Southeastern United States on Friday, knocking out power to more than a million customers and flooding parts of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

As the day progressed, the storm moved up the East Coast, its rains stretching more than 700 miles from South Carolina to New England. Some areas saw more than 9 inches of rain.

With residents in three Gulf Coast states facing homes sheared from their pilings, power outages, floodwaters and looters, authorities urged evacuees not to return home until they receive an all-clear decree. Analysts have given preliminary damage estimates ranging from $2 billion to $10 billion.

Ivan left 60 dead in the Caribbean before it blasted U.S. shores early Thursday near the Alabama resort towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, and ripped into Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle.

"I've been down here 24 years, and this is the worst I've seen," said Sgt. Al Fryer, a Pensacola police spokesman.

"All beachfront and everything on the waterfront is devastated, and the damage is extreme," he said.

Cartographers will need to redraw maps of Gulf Shores, officials said, because waves swallowed as much as a mile of the coastline.

A half-mile of beach was washed out, and sand was scattered for blocks over roads, yards and rooftops. Floodwaters had mostly receded Friday, allowing authorities to begin cleanup efforts.

Residents along the hard-hit Alabama coast won't be allowed back into the area until sometime this weekend at the earliest. For some, the wait is agonizing.

"I don't know what's there. I think there's a house, but I don't know that for sure. And I don't know how much damage, how much water -- what I'll find when I get back," Gulf Shores resident Martha Howard said.

The U.S. death toll from Ivan, which made landfall with 130 mph (209 kph) winds, stood at 23 as of Friday night -- eight of them in the Florida Panhandle, where the eastern edge of the storm spawned tornadoes well before the eye hit.

Eight people died in North Carolina. Four of those deaths occurred in Macon County in the western corner of the state when 20 to 30 homes were wiped out by a mudslide.

Debbie Crane of the North Carolina Emergency Management Agency said the state was experiencing heavy flooding west of Asheville and that many roads are impassable.

Four people died in Georgia, including a 6-year-old girl who was swept away by floodwaters. An electrocuted utility worker, a 4-year-old swept away and a person hit by a falling tree also died, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. (Storm impact on states)

In northwestern Alabama, a volunteer firefighter died after his vehicle hit a downed tree, said George Grabryan, Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency 911 director.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported three storm-related deaths.

Tornadoes in the Panhandle town of Blountstown, west of Tallahassee, and in Panama City Beach caused six of Florida's eight deaths.

A tornado destroyed the Blountstown mobile home of Santana Sullivan and her fiancÚ, Chris Ammonds.

They returned home to find "a clear lot," she said. (Full story)

Among the items lost in their home were the wedding rings Sullivan and Ammonds planned to exchange next month.

In Santa Rosa County, emergency management officials said a young girl in Milton died when a tree fell on her house.

The body of a truck driver whose rig plunged off a damaged bridge near Pensacola was pulled from Pensacola Bay on Friday, sheriff's officials said.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said officials had been concerned about looting in the hardest-hit areas around Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, which have been extensively developed since Hurricane Frederic hit the area in 1979.

"But unless you looted out of a boat, it would be very difficult to do," Riley said.

Ivan was reduced to a tropical depression late Thursday after sweeping into north-central Alabama as a tropical storm, knocking out power as far north as Birmingham and Atlanta, Georgia.

President Bush declared major disaster areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, making federal funding and aid available to residents of those states affected by the storm.

Bush canceled a campaign event Sunday in New Hampshire and instead will tour the affected regions of Alabama and Florida, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Chucky still missing

In Gulf Shores, the Alabama Gulf Shores Zoo was littered with wood and other debris. Most animals were evacuated before the storm, but authorities were looking for 12 deer and six alligators that hadn't been evacuated and have been seen wading -- or swimming -- around the flooded island.

Among them is Chucky, a 1,000-pound, 12-foot-long alligator, and zoo officials spent three hours fruitlessly searching by canoe for him Thursday afternoon.

Officials believe he got away in the dark of night, though they concede Chucky could be anywhere.

Chucky is a nice animal -- he has been fed by humans and could approach people if he sees them -- but people should be cautious, an official said.

"If you're a male -- say 6-foot-5 -- and he wants you, you're his," zoo general manager Kate Raymond said.

Authorities reported that Dauphin Island, across the mouth of Mobile Bay, had sustained extensive damage to structures over the entire island, said Bruce Baughman, Alabama Emergency Management Agency director. The island also was hit hard by Hurricane Frederic, "and as with 1979, they've got sand covering the entire island."

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Sara Dorsey, Kathleen Koch, Rick Sanchez and Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.

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