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WEATHER
 » 2006 Forecast  | Saffir-Simpson scale  |  Your stories

Dennis soaking Ohio River Valley

At least five killed in storm's trek through Southeast

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Floodwaters cover part of a roller coaster at Six Flags theme park Monday in Atlanta, Georgia.

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    Hurricane Dennis

    PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- Remnants of Dennis soaked portions of the Ohio River Valley Monday after the former Category 3 hurricane left five people dead in Florida and Georgia.

    Downgraded to a tropical depression, Dennis' center by late afternoon was near Dyersburg, Tennessee.

    The storm's 15 mph north-northwestward pace was expected to slow overnight, posing a flood threat for the lower Ohio Valley, the National Weather Center said.

    Flood and flash-flood warnings were in effect for portions of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

    Government forecasters predicted 5 to 8 inches of rain over parts of the Ohio River Valley, with amounts of more than 10 inches possible.

    "It is very important for people in its path to keep abreast of the latest local weather forecasts," said James Hoke, director of the center.

    By 2 p.m. Monday, Dennis had dropped more than 6 inches of rain on Camden, Alabama, more than 8 inches on Bristol, Florida, and nearly 10 inches on Austell, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, the weather center said. Boats were used to evacuate two flooded neighborhoods in the Atlanta area.

    Packing maximum sustained winds of just 25 mph, Dennis was diminished from what it had been when it washed over Haiti and Cuba, killing 32 people.

    Power lines were down across the Southeast, and at one point more than 850,000 customers in the region had no electricity. President Bush declared federal disaster areas in portions of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

    Dennis Rudduck of the American Red Cross said 158 shelters housed 50,000 people.

    In the western Florida Panhandle, where the storm crashed ashore Sunday afternoon with 120 mph winds and storm surges higher than 10 feet, the memory of last September's Hurricane Ivan tempered reactions, despite mountains of debris.

    "Without the Ivan experience, we would have thought this was a terrible experience," said Hunter Walker, administrator of Santa Rosa County.

    Deadly storm

    But Dennis was far from benign. Its high winds and drenching rains were blamed for felling a poplar tree that crashed onto a home in suburban Atlanta, killing a man.

    Edward Timmons, 36, was alone in his bedroom at 3:30 a.m. Monday when a tree crashed through the roof, said Jean Goldman, a family friend. His wife and two children had gone to their basement and were unharmed.

    The storm was blamed for four deaths in Florida.

    A 3-year-old boy was killed when his parents accidentally drove over him as they were attempting to evacuate from their Walton County home. And in Nassau County, a 13-year-old boy drowned in an area where a flood watch had been posted.

    A 26-year-old Broward County man was electrocuted when he touched a downed power line, a spokesman for the state's emergency operations center said. And a 55-year-old Escambia County man died of presumed carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson of Florida toured some of the damaged areas Monday in the western Panhandle.

    "We're here for the long haul," Bush told Floridians, pledging all necessary support to a state still recovering from the four hurricanes that hit last year.

    One estimate from a firm that serves the insurance industry surmises that Dennis is likely to cause between $1 billion and $2.5 billion in insured losses. (Full story)

    Small communities suffer

    Furious tides battered Panhandle beaches Sunday, washing into waterfront residences and businesses, tearing apart beach access stairs and leaving parking lots and roads buried in sand.

    In Bay County, a "significant number of homes and businesses" were flooded in Panama City, Panama City Beach and Lynn Haven, an official said.

    Greg Strader, CEO of the American Red Cross of Northwest Florida, said some smaller communities were hurt worse by Dennis than by Ivan, which slammed ashore 50 miles farther west.

    One of the hardest-hit communities is some 175 miles to the east of where Dennis made landfall.

    The storm's rain and wind bands, swirling madly counterclockwise, pushed water into bays and estuaries all along the Gulf Coast, but nowhere worse than at St. Marks, a small fishing town on the St. Marks River 20 miles south of Tallahassee in Wakulla County.

    Seawater from Apalachee Bay swelled the river and overflowed the banks, flooding businesses, homes and streets with salt water.

    "I've been here all my life, and this is the most water we've ever had," said St. Marks Mayor Chuck Shields. "We had probably a 10-foot surge over normal high. All the businesses and everything along the river here was completely flooded out."

    City Manager Zoe Mansfield added, "All the homes in town have been underwater, but [the residents] seem real upbeat, and they know that we've got a lot of cleanup to do."

    High water also engulfed other low-lying communities elsewhere in Wakulla County, at the eastern end of the Florida Panhandle, authorities said Sunday.

    Wakulla County Sheriff's Maj. Maurice Langston said the towns of Shell Point, Oyster Bay and Panacea also experienced storm urges more than 10 feet, causing the worst flooding since the 1920s.

    A few hours before it hit land, Dennis had been classified a Category 4 storm, with top winds of 145 mph. Motivated by memories of Ivan's wrath, residents in threatened areas largely complied with calls for evacuations.

    Ivan killed at least 60 people in Haiti and reached Category 5 -- 156 mph and above -- three times before crashing into the U.S. Gulf Coast with 120 mph winds. It killed at least 56 people in the United States.

    Meteorologists said Dennis was faster-moving and more compact than Ivan.

    Another storm forms

    Already, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are monitoring another tropical system that could be headed for the Caribbean Sea.

    The system was upgraded to a tropical storm Monday night and named Emily, becoming the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

    With maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, Emily was centered 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Lesser Antilles.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper, Randi Kaye, Dan Lothian, Rick Sanchez and John Zarrella contributed to this report.

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