-- Florida awoke Sunday to a dispiriting sense of deja vu: Trees hacked apart before dawn by Hurricane Jeanne lay next to debris heaps deposited by Hurricane Frances three weeks ago. Homes left barely inhabitable by Frances clung in shreds to their foundations, broken and kicked into condemnable states by Jeanne.
The storms -- dubbed "the Sisters" by Gov. Jeb Bush, "the evil twins" by radio talk-show hosts -- astounded meteorologists by landing in almost the same spot near this town on Florida's "Treasure Coast," a region of magnificent lagoons and myriad inlets ringed by modest retirement homes and old-money mansions. Most of Sunday, Jeanne followed up on its spectacular 120-mph assault on the coast with another standby of Florida's unprecedented four-hurricane storm season: the wet, windy trudge across the state.
The trail behind Jeanne as it weakened to a tropical storm on its way north of Tampa to the Panhandle was dark and dismal: five people dead, more than 50,000 in shelters, 1.5 million homes and businesses without power, ruined orange groves thrashed by three hurricanes and a constellation of blue tarps covering holes in countless roofs. The wreckage was even worse in the Caribbean, where Jeanne killed more than 1,500.
"I'm 80 years old and I don't know that I could do this too much more," said Norval Mathie, a retired dentist from Ohio, as he stood in the squalor that was once a lovely apartment on Hutchinson Island, off Stuart. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
Mathie, isolated from help on the mainland by damaged bridges, was living off a couple of pots of boiled water and some canned food. Others were worse off. Already, necessities were dwindling in the shattered towns across Florida and stranded people were calling out for food, for water, for help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, still engaged in relief work for hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan, launched what Director Michael D. Brown called the largest disaster recovery effort in its history.
Convoys of trucks bearing water and ice surged north from staging grounds south of Miami. They had been placed there after the hard lessons of Frances, when relief supplies stored north of the storm's biggest impact were held up for days by flooded roads.
Almost as vexing as the complications of finding food and shelter for storm-weary residents are the millions of tons of debris from the hurricanes that have yet to be removed.
"The volumes are so large, I'm not sure how we're going to handle that," the governor said.
Lenny Yocum, 23, knows what Bush is talking about. The marketing consultant from Pennsylvania listened to Jeanne howl from the hallway of his family's oceanfront condominium on Hutchinson Island while playing "Texas Hold'em" with his 85-year-old grandmother. The storm came one day too soon for the Yocums, whose beachside pad was also knocked around by Frances.
"We had it all cleaned up and, bam! -- we get hit by another," he said. "We had heaved everything into a big pile and we were waiting for the [insurance] adjuster to show up tomorrow."
Yet, even as Yocum, the governor and others contemplated the logistical nightmare of putting back together neighborhoods rattled beyond belief by four hurricanes, many felt relieved. Bush said he went to church Sunday morning "and thanked God that so few people have lost their lives" since Jeanne's eye pushed ashore late Saturday. The U.S. death toll from the previous hurricanes was 107.
The governor's call to the heavens came as people in Stuart's tattered downtown historic district were calling out to his brother in Washington for something more temporal.
"Mr. President, we need lots of money," said Leonard Fucarelli, 52, a blues guitarist who weathered Jeanne and Frances in a jiggly, 1920s-era apartment building overlooking the St. Lucie River.
Fucarelli, his long mop of stringy yellow hair tousled by the wind, sang out his latest composition Sunday afternoon -- there wasn't much else to do, except take sips from his post-hurricane essential stash of Coronas:
I've got the hurricane blues/Baby, you hit me like a hurricane.
Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), who represents the hard-hit Palm Beach area -- where a half-million people are without power -- said Sunday that a $3.5 billion measure to cover relief costs and to bolster Army Corps of Engineers beach re-nourishment projects will be presented to Congress. The governor urged congressional leaders to make the relief money a stand-alone bill -- simultaneously taking a broadside at the previous hurricane relief package, which he said was tacked onto legislation that also paid for drought projects in South Dakota.
"It's Washington, and it's a month before the election," he said.
The storm that had Bush worrying about election-year money games was stronger than Frances by a long stretch. Jeanne carried 120-mph sustained winds and 140-mph gusts, compared with Frances's 105-mph onslaught. But its effects will be less widespread than the massive Frances, which spread clouds over the entire state for much of three days and left 6 million people without power.
Still, Jeanne's winds and rains were making life miserable over hundreds of miles of Florida as it headed toward Georgia, cutting a triangle of destruction that stretched from Cape Canaveral to the north and Palm Beach to the south, and into towns across the interior of the state. Florida Power & Light officials said some areas will not have electricity for three weeks, and 70,000 people on the Panhandle are still without power because of Ivan, which hit Sept. 16.
Rain and wind pelted Orlando with such ferocity that residents stayed inside for much of the morning, fearful of venturing out. More than 120 miles inland from Jeanne's first landfall at Stuart, signs were toppled and roofs were torn apart in Haines City, which has been hit by three hurricanes this year.
"I don't know where that came from," said Frank Brady, 85, as he pointed out two 10-foot slabs of roofing in his Haines City driveway. "I don't think it's mine."
Ironically, the drumbeat of hurricanes may have helped lessen the effect of Jeanne in some ways. Officials in soggy Vero Beach said the drenching from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, which primarily affected the Panhandle and southern Alabama, saturated piles of debris. That made the refuse heavier and less prone to be tossed into the air by Jeanne's winds.
But such graces were minor consolations in a state in which "broken" and "tattered" are descriptions now as commonplace as "sunny" and "beautiful."
"I'm tired of this," said Eddie Pass, 69, an Oyster Bay, N.Y., native who works as a salesman at Carl's Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Stuart. "It's crazy. I came down to paradise. It makes you think: 'What am I doing here?' "
Staff writer Shankar Vedantam in Haines City and special correspondents Catharine Skipp in Stuart and Milton R. Benjamin in Vero Beach contributed to this report.
Braving high winds, Troy Taynton of Satellite Beach, Fla., checks the damage to his neighbor's home that was caused by Hurricane Jeanne.