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Tropical Storm Jeanne Heads Toward Virginia

Storm Expected to Hit Washington Area Tonight, Tuesday

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2004; 4:00 PM

After leaving a trail of devastation across the Caribbean and delivering another blow to hard-hit Florida, Jeanne was downgraded today to a tropical depression as it tracked toward southwestern Virginia.

Although the hurricane has lost much of its punch since it hit the southeastern coast of Florida around midnight Saturday with 120 mph winds, it still carried the threat of flooding and tornadoes as it moved through Georgia and South Carolina, the National Weather Service reported.

By 2 p.m. EDT, Jeanne had weakened to a tropical depression centered about 35 miles south of Macon, Ga., the service's National Hurricane Center reported. Its maximum sustained winds were near 35 mph as it moved north-northeast at about 14 mph.

The hurricane center said the storm could bring rainfall of four to eight inches and spawn tornadoes from eastern Georgia through southern North Carolina today.

Its effects appeared likely to be felt in the Washington, D.C., region tonight and Tuesday in the form of rain and gusty winds -- weather far less severe than the torrential rains and tornadoes that accompanied the remnants of Hurricane Ivan when it reached the Washington area two weeks ago.

The National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va., said scattered showers are expected by the evening rush hour, with the showers becoming more numerous and widespread into the night.

Rainfall, possibly "pretty heavy," is expected during tonight's football game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, accompanied by gusty winds of up to 25 mph, said meteorologist James E. Lee. Fans should "definitely bring your ponchos and raincoats," Lee said. But the heaviest rain is expected after 1 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

After clobbering Florida Sunday, Jeanne moved into Georgia this morning with winds reaching about 45 mph.

It was the fourth hurricane to hit Florida in six weeks -- making the Sunshine State the first state since Texas in 1886 to be hit by that many hurricane-strength storms in one season.

At least six people died in Florida as a result of Jeanne, adding to the state's death toll of at least 73 from the three previous hurricanes that struck since mid-August.

About 2.6 million homes and businesses in Florida lost power as Jeanne swept through, and 76,000 more customers were blacked out in Georgia, the Associated Press reported.

The latest damage prompted President Bush to declare a major disaster area in 26 of Florida's 67 counties.

But the trail of death and destruction paled by comparison with Jeanne's wrath in the Caribbean, where at least 1,500 Haitians were reported killed by flooding and another 900 remained missing. In addition, Jeanne left an estimated 300,000 Haitians homeless.

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, Hurricane Jeanne killed 24 people. Seven others died in Puerto Rico as a result of the storm.

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