Pensacola News Journal from Pensacola, Florida on September 14, 1999 · 2
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Pensacola News Journal from Pensacola, Florida · 2

Pensacola, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, September 14, 1999
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2A Pensacola News Journal Tuesday, September 14, 1999 TODAY'S INSIGHT: HURRICANE FLOYD ace shuttles in Associated Press CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA's four space shuttles were in danger as the agency braced Monday for Hurricane Floyd, a storm powerful enough to wipe out its launch pads and hangars. All of the shuttles are in hangars. But the buildings are designed to withstand wind of no more than 105 mph to 125 mph. Floyd was packing top sustained winds of 155 mph wind as of Monday afternoon. "We're going to live and hope that's what it's going to take," NASA spokesman George Diller said as Kennedy Space Center's approximately 12,500 workers began evacuating. Even if the hurricane skirts the central Florida coast and passes CLOSINGS AIRPORTS American Airlines canceled all its flights today to and from the Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando airports as Hurricane Floyd swirled toward the state. In all, about 400 flights were canceled, most at American's Miami hub. The airline did not expect to resume passenger flights until after noon Wednesday. United Airlines, US Airways and British Airways canceled all flights into and out of South Florida on Monday night. Passengers were advised to contact their carriers. SCHOOLS Public schools were closed today in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Duval, Clay, Brevard, Martin, Marion, St. Lucie, Indian River, St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler, Hendry, and Glades counties. University of Miami canceled classes today and will reopen Wednesday, unless weather conditions dictate otherwise. Florida International University canceled classes today. University of Florida will be closed from 3 p.m. today through Wednesday. Jacksonville University has canceled classes today evening and Wednesday. University of North Florida canceled classes today and Wednesday. HURRICANE GERT Floyd was joined Monday by Hurricane Gert, which grew from a tropical storm to a hurricane with winds near 85 mph about 1 ,300 miles east of the Leeward Islands. TROPICAL WEATHER Forecasters also were watching a cluster of storms about 800 miles southeast of Bermuda and said it could become a tropical depression or storm. HURRICANE CATEGORIES Hurricanes are ranked one to five, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale of strength: Category 1: Hurricane has central pressure of 28.94 inches or more and winds of 74 to 95 mph, is accompanied by a 4- to 5-foot storm surge and causes minimal damage. Category 2: Pressure 28.50 to 28.93 inches, winds from 96 to 110 mph, storm surge 6 to 8 feet, damage moderate. Category 3: Pressure 27.91 to 28.49 inches, winds from 1 1 1 to 1 30 mph, storm surge nine to 12 feet, damage extensive. Category 4: Pressure 27.17 to 27.90 inches, winds from 131 to 155 mph, storm surge 13 to 18 feet, damage extreme. Category 5: Pressure less than 27.17 inches, winds greater than 155 mph, storm surge higher than 18 feet, damage catastrophic. Navy, Air Force deploy Associated Press JACKSONVILLE - Twelve naval ships headed to sea Monday and personnel stationed at two bases were told to evacuate as military installations along the Florida coast braced for Hurricane Floyd. About 10,000 airmen, their family members and civilian contractors at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the central Florida coast were told to find someplace else to stay until the threat passes. Nearly 1,000 were expected to stay at a middle school while others sought refuge in hotels or with family and friends. "We're bugging out," said base spokeswoman Lynda Yezzi. As of Monday evening, no evacuation order had been given for May-port Naval Station on the Atlantic Launch pads, hangars can take winds 35 miles offshore, forecasters have warned Kennedy Space Center to expect 150 mph wind Wednesday. "We're just hoping that it stays farther offshore to make it a little easier for us," Diller said. "But it's not going to be a good situation in any event." Barring a change in the hurricane's course, NASA planned to close down the Kennedy Space Center by midnight Monday, leaving behind a skeleton crew. Today, managers will decide whether to keep the crew there to ride out the storm; the workers would leave if the wind is as fierce as predicted. afannas to tste ffoir$& Mow Associated Press NASSAU, Bahamas - Panicked Bahamas residents abandoned beachfront homes and scrambled for emergency supplies Monday as Hurricane Floyd's 155 mph winds bore down on the vulnerable, low-lying archipelago. Floyd was predicted to hit the Bahamas as soon as late Monday and possibly hit Florida by Wednesday. "I have never been this scared about a storm," said shopkeeper Angel Chea as she hastily boarded up her windows. Floyd was on the verge of becoming a Category 5 storm the most powerful designation for a hurricane which features top sustained winds of at least 156 mph with higher gusts. By comparison, Hurricane Andrew was a Category 4 storm when it struck South Florida in 1992, killing 26 people and causing an estimated $25 billion in damage. Residents and officials in the Bahamas reported the wind was picking up, and many residents were already in hurricane shelters. "I don't want to be caught in the rush," said Margaret Bastian of Nassau, as she settled into a shelter with a blanket, a pillow and a small bag full of food. The storm interrupted airline flights, cruises and shipping traffic between the United States and the Caribbean. American Airlines on Monday canceled its nine daily flights between southern Florida and its hub in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines sent Bahamas-bound ships to Mexico instead. Bahamian officials warned that storm surges of up to 20 feet could sweep as far as six miles inland. That's a terrifying prospect on this island of New Providence, which is only seven miles from north to south and has some 165,000 peo- s By Jim Ash News Journal capital bureau TALLAHASSEE - Florida insurers can absorb most of the destruction a monster storm like Hurricane Floyd could dish out, but back-to-back catastrophes would be a different story. "We are as prepared as any state can be for a Category 4 or a Category 5 hurricane," Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson said Monday. "Insurance companies will continue to do business in Florida, whenever the next big one hits and even after that." Regulators have a high level of confidence because of a series of steps lawmakers took after Hurricane Andrew cut a $16 billion swathe through Homestead and Florida City in southern Dade County in 1992. Regulators have worked feverish Fond "We would rather overreact at this stage than . say, 'Oh geez, it's nothing to worry about.' " - Cmdr. L.T. Evans, spokesman, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base coast north of Jacksonville. Dozens of military aircraft planes were flown to safer ground and the Florida National Guard went on alert to help secure damaged areas and provide humanitarian help if needed. The USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier with about 5,000 aboard, and the RFA Gold Frover, a visiting British ship, planned to join the other vessels from May-port at sea today, at high tide, said base spokeswoman Martha Rimmer. The Kennedy had been scheduled to leave later this week on a six-month deployment, but will have to danger The center is only 9 feet above sea level, so a storm surge as well as wind could be devastating. "If it's a direct hit on us, or even a skirting hit, we could lose a great deal, and a ride-out crew's not going to help you," said Bruce Buckingham, another NASA spokesman. This would be the first complete evacuation ever of Kennedy Space Center. A skeleton crew remained behind when the place was evacuated for Hurricane Erin in 1995. Unable to be moved in a hurry like NASA's $2 billion shuttles, four multimillion-dollar rockets remained on launch pads at the adja THE BAHAMAS "God is the only one who can help us now." Nassau resident Mildred Minnis fi f':?. 1 i. J. 4-.. vV A 1 Associated Press Beulah Mae Brennan holds her daughter Andrea as her stepfather, Sydney Kelly, boards up windows on their house in preparation for Hurricane Floyd in Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas on Monday. 5 pie, more than half the Bahamas' entire population. "God is the only one who can help us now," said Nassau resident Mildred Minnis. All of the northwest and central Bahamian islands were under hurricane warnings Monday afternoon. A tropical storm warning was posted for the southeastern Bahamas and the nearby British Turks and Caicos islands. A hurricane warning was extended for the Florida east coast from Florida City to just south of Brunswick, Ga. insurers ly to reshape the market, but homeowners still have seen their rates rise an average of 108 percent statewide since Andrew. Last year, rates fell an average of 5 percent the first such drop since 1992. "All things are pointing to an increasingly healthy insurance market," said Dan McLaughlin, a Department of Insurance spokesman. Another key difference since Andrew is a change in insurance regulations that smoothes the way for the small army of claims adjusters that would be needed in the wake of another disaster. This year, adjusters need only register with their companies, skipping a regulatory step with the Department of Insurance that could cost valuable time. Another important difference is the ships, evacuate bases return after the storm passes. Mayport's helicopter squadrons were flown to Dobbins Air Force Base near Atlanta. Four HC-130s, cargo and refueling planes, and three HH-60s, rescue helicopters, also went to Dobbins. Jacksonville Naval Air Station sent 30 P-3 Orions, 16 S-3 Vikings and SH-60 helicopters to bases in states from Texas to Mississippi, said Pat Dooling, a Navy spokesman. Meanwhile, Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency, giving him authority to activate the National Guard. Jon Myatt, a spokesman for the as NASA up to 125 mph, not cent Cape Canaveral Air Station. The rockets were being secured to their pads, with protective towers placed around them. In addition, loose objects such as electric generators were being removed to keep them from becoming projectiles. The Air Force launch towers are built to withstand wind up to 120 mph. NASA's two shuttle launch pads can take wind up to 125 mph. Air Force officials planned to evacuate all 10,000 workers at Cape Canaveral Air Station and Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach. At Kennedy, technicians closed the cargo-bay doors of each shuttle i 4 1 4iM W.:i,; it V. v- 1 I L In Nassau, the Bahamian capital, long lines formed at gasoline stations and grocery stores and two major supermarkets ran out of bottled water. Bahamian schools were converted into hurricane shelters, and officials planned to close Nassau's airport later Monday. Organizers canceled a parade to welcome home Bahamian track runners from the Outdoor World Championship in Seville, Spain. "We can't ask those girls to come from a safe place to an unsafe place," said Sports Minster Zhivargo Laing. t : , 0- . as ready as they ca creation of a hurricane catastrophe fund, backed by a surcharge on individual policies. The fund has $3.5 billion in cash immediately available. It would kick in and pay claims should private companies face catastrophic losses. Regulators could augment the catastrophe fund with a line of credit that could boost the fund to $11 billion. "We are the best protected of any state in the country," said Sam Miller, vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, a trade group. After Andrew, 11 insurance companies ultimately failed while others, embarrassed by their inability to predict Andrew-sized losses, raced to drop Florida homeowners. That wouldn't be as big a problem if Floyd strikes this week. The Legislature has enacted a Florida Department of Military, said the Guard itself may have to evacuate headquarters in St. Augustine just yards from Matanzas Bay. The parking lot of the historic building often floods at high tide, Myatt said. The Guard plans to wait until the last minute to decide on moving its 18 F-15 Eagle fighters and 24 Apache helicopters to safer ground. "It's easy to evacuate them," Myatt said. "We can move them quickly to other bases." At Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base on the Georgia coast, just north of Jacksonville, officials were considering sending three or four subs to sea. "Extra caution is the watchword," said Cmdr. L.T.. Evans, a base spokesman. "We would rather overreact at this stage than say, 'Oh geez, it's nothing to worry about.' " braces for storm Floyd's 155 mph and bagged the main engines on the tail to protect against water damage. The landing gear was also raised on the three shuttles in the Orbital Processing Facility, designed to withstand wind of up to 105 mph. On Atlantis, parked in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the landing gear was covered with plastic bags. Its gear could not be raised because Atlantis was resting on its wheels. The 525-foot-high Vehicle Assembly Building, where shuttles are attached to their booster rockets and external fuel tanks, can withstand wind of up to 125 mph. Li V. My. .. IV f Jt -,i In San Salvador, a quiet resort island where Christopher Columbu's is believed to have first landed in the New World, Riding Rock Inn manager Carter Williams said he moved all of his guests to a shelter at the nearby Church of God. "I worked until about 2 (a.m.) preparing for the hurricane," Williams said. The island's Club Med resort said some customers would wait out the storm at the resort. Floyd's hurricane force winds extended up to 125 miles from its center with tropical storm force winds stretching to 260 miles. moratorium that prohibits insurance companies from dropping more than 5 percent of their policyholders statewide in any given year. Legislators also created a state-backed insurance pool of last resort, the Florida Residential Joint Underwriting Association, to provide coverage to homeowners left in the cold by Andrew. It is more commonly known as the JUA. The state pool now covers 105,788 policy holders, with 96 percent of them living in high-risk areas in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. It has enough cash reserves and access to pay out $2.2 billion in losses, twice what computer models suggest would be necessary in the worst storm season in 100 years. "The JUA is well poised," said spokesman Ron Bartlett. "We have Naval ships head out to sea Monday I, i ' ,i (' '-, c : vv;i V:.:" . -"V. ' , IK'S NASA expected the preparations not to mention any damage or destruction to delay upcoming shuttle flights, already postponed by wiring defects. Discovery is supposed to fly at the end of October on a repair trip to the Hubble Space Telescope, and Endeavour is set for liftoff in November on an Earth-mapping mission. j The last time that Kennedy Space Center had to go through such drastic precautions was for Erin. In 1996, Hurricanes Bertha and Fran forced NASA to move Atlantis from the launch pad into the hangar, but no evacuation was ordered. I Cocoa Beacli boards up - and leaves Associated Press COCOA BEACH - Stores an4 restaurants in this beach community were boarded up with plywood and normally clogged roads were thin with traffic as residents obeye4 a mandatory evacuation order in anticipation of Hurricane Floyd. Cocoa Beach was like a ghost town late Monday as hotels and shops were shuttered and the Cocoa Beach Pier was roped off from visitors. i Ron Jon Surf Shop, famous for be ing open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week was closed and sandbags packed around its glass doors. ! The Days Inn had a sign in the window that said "Sorry, we are closed for Floyd." Three mainte nance golf carts were placed in the hotel lobby for safekeeping. Jeff and Robin Ellenburg, of Cocoa Beach, planned to go to Tampa with their 4-year-old daughter, Bayley, to ride out Hurricane Floyd. The Ellen: burgs who are veterans of natural disasters, having lived in Washt ington State when Mount St. Helen blew up and in Los Angeles during the 1994 earthquake were pack: ing their car with computers, televif sions, clothes and pictures. r "We're out of here," said Jeff Ellenburg, whose apartment is a block from the beach. Coastal residents from Miami to Daytona Beach were urged to evacuate Monday as well as those in low-lying areas and in mobile or manufactured homes. . Brevard Cou,nty residents who stayed would not be fined, but they wouldn't receive any help from por liceman or firefighters should they want to be evacuated later, said Joan Heller, a county spokeswomaa Jerry Sale, owner of Pete's Pawn Shop and East Coast Music on A1A, boarded up his store, located about a block from the beach, with metal shutters and was making plans to drive north. "I'm a Florida native. I've lived here all my life," he said. "I've never run from a hurricane, but if this one looks like it's going to land, I'm out of here." m be a catastrophe response plan that has been in place for years." , The big question mark remaining is what would happen if Florida were struck by dual disasters, a major strike from Hurricane Floyd followed by another large storm the same season or even the next. . Legislators this spring approved a plan to levy additional surcharges on insurance policies, creating a revenue stream that would be used to reload the hurricane catastrophe fund in the unlikely event it was wiped out by a major hurricane disaster. That could take years as the insurance industry recovers. But there's only so much planning regulators and agencies can do. "There is a point at which you go beyond anybody's capabilities," Nelson said. I,: T. . Associated Press to ride out Hurricane Floyd. AT 7 - T

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