Jeanne Adds To Costly Storm Tab

JEANNE : A homemade "No Trespassing" sign sits in front of a ruined mobile home in the Riverview Mobile Home Park in Micco, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, after Hurricane Jeanne moved through the area. AP

Since Labor Day weekend, Linda Baker and her 4-year-old daughter have been forced to stay at a Palm Beach County shelter, the victims of a one-two punch. Hurricane Frances ripped away half of the roof of their trailer, and last weekend Jeanne finished it off.

Baker would move if she could afford it, but she's hampered by a $500 monthly rent until her Greenacres trailer is bulldozed off the property. Her $600 check from the federal government covered only new clothes, shoes and a one-night stay at a motel.

"We're just fed up with everything here," Baker said. "It's just so hard to get ahead."

Sarasota homeowner Joyce McClung also is having a bad week.

"I spent two hours at Wal-Mart waiting for gas and then the generator went, so I went to my car and it wouldn't start," she told CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi.

First her home was destroyed by Jeanne, and now she can't reach anyone at her insurance company.

"It just tells you what you're covered for. Nobody talks to you. It's just recording after recording," McClung said.

When she finally got through on a borrowed cell phone, the adjuster wanted to make an appointment to call her back.

"I have no phone service. Neither does anyone else," McClung said.

Across parts of Florida simple tasks now require a great amount of patience. Just finding a place to sleep is an all day affair.

In storm-battered Florida, more than 3,900 people were staying in shelters Wednesday while nearly 1.3 million homes and businesses were without power. In another sign of the toll of four hurricanes, at least one as-yet unidentified insurance company was seeking state help because it was overwhelmed by claims.

A garbage truck driver was electrocuted in St. Lucie County, Fla., Tuesday after hitting a live power line, reports CBS News Correspondent Peter King, and people are being told to be careful during the cleanup efforts.

The storm's remnants also were destructive, dumping torrential rain and spawning tornadoes. In Virginia, a 51-year-old woman was swept from her mobile home and drowned after more than a foot of rain fell and turned roads into rivers.

In western Maryland, nearly a half-foot of rain fell Tuesday. Emergency workers rescued several people from vehicles stranded by high water, and turned around a loaded Frederick County school bus trapped by an eroding roadway.

Jeanne also dumped more than 6 inches of rain in the Philadelphia area, where a woman died after floodwaters swept her from a bus stop Tuesday. And about 400 people were evacuated from a commuter train after floodwaters appeared to be undermining the ground beneath the tracks.

In Cherry Hill, N.J., 11 buildings and several cars were damaged Tuesday by high winds. Witnesses said they saw a funnel cloud; the National Weather Service said it was investigating whether a tornado touchdown caused the two-mile swath of damage. And in Delaware, a tornado Tuesday night near New Castle County Airport tipped over a cargo plane, ripped roofs off nearby businesses and lifted a car off a state highway, authorities said. No serious injuries were reported.

President Bush is making his fourth post-hurricane visit to Florida on Wednesday, with plans to tour a damaged citrus grove in Lake Wales. Even before the latest hurricane, the state's agricultural industry sustained an estimated $2 billion in damage to the state's crops from Hurricanes Charley and Frances.

John Kerry's strategists have made Florida's 27 electoral votes a top target, but he doesn't arrive in the state until Wednesday evening for Thursday's debate. With hurricanes, evacuations, power outages, it's been next to impossible to get reliable polling done in Florida, reports CBS News Correspondent Lou Miliano, not since the middle of august when a Zogby poll showed Kerry's lead was but a half point and a Gallup poll showed a dead heat.

Over the past six weeks, hurricanes have damaged more than one of every five Florida homes. The insurance industry expects claims this season to surpass 2 million, easily surpassing the 700,000 claims filed 12 years ago after Hurricane Andrew, the nation's most destructive hurricane.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees insurance regulation, estimated insured losses from this season's four storms to be $18 billion, or $3 billion more than Andrew. He said Jeanne added $6 billion in insured losses to nearly $12 billion estimated from hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan.

"These four storms are a much larger problem than Andrew was for the state," Gallagher said.

Jeanne killed at least six people in Florida last weekend, pummeling the Atlantic coast with winds of 120 mph.

The havoc caused by the four hurricanes prompted the largest relief effort ever undertaken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The president has requested an additional $7.1 billion from Congress to help Florida and other Southeastern states recover from the storms, bringing the total possible funding to at least $12.2 billion.

The hurricanes have taken an emotional toll, as well.

"I've lost two houses now because of two hurricanes," said Whitney Wrobleski of Hutchinson Island, Fla., who adds she's getting out of Florida.

Gov. Jeb Bush said domestic violence reports are spiking in areas hit by the storms.

"Nerves are frayed and frustration levels run high," Bush said. "The stress of rebuilding a home or business can be overwhelming."

But even amid the hardships, some positive signs are emerging. In Indian River County, schools were shuttered until at least Monday, but football practice was on.
  • Lloyd Vries

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