Florida braces itself for Hurricane Jeanne

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The Independent US

For Florida, the hurricane season from hell gets more hellish. Charley, Frances and Ivan - and now Jeanne, a major storm that is due to barrel into the south-eastern part of the state tomorrow.

For Florida, the hurricane season from hell gets more hellish. Charley, Frances and Ivan - and now Jeanne, a major storm that is due to barrel into the south-eastern part of the state tomorrow.

After devastating Haiti and causing at least 1,000 deaths in the city of Gonaives alone, this hurricane had appeared to be heading harmlessly towards the north Atlantic. Alas for Florida, it ran into a major high-pressure system and, after spinning aimlessly for 72 hours, made up its mind and headed west.

The hurricane is expected to come ashore as a category 2 or 3 hurricane, with winds of 115mph or more. Forecasters then expect it to turn north, threatening more havoc in Georgia and the Carolinas.

If so, 2004 will be the first year since modern records began that Florida has been hit by four major hurricanes in one season. And this may only be a foretaste. Global warming has generated more heat for hurricanes to feed off in tropical Atlantic waters, scientists say, at a time when the hurricane cycle was strengthening of its own accord.

And new hurricanes are not the only problem. Old ones, it seems, will not go away. Ten days ago, Ivan slammed into Florida's western panhandle before moving north-east, causing 60 deaths before it left land at the Virginia coast.

At that point, unusually, the system split. One part went north - but the other turned south, regaining strength on the way. On Tuesday, the reborn storm crossed southern Florida. Even the US National Hurricane Centre displayed some weary humour, announcing: "It sounds like the sequel to a very bad horror movie, but it's no joke. Ivan is back."

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