Downgraded Dennis Pushes North

CBS Moneywatch
What was once Hurricane Dennis is now just a tropical depression, dumping loads of rain, after hitting the storm-weary Florida Panhandle and Alabama coast on Sunday with less force than forecasters feared and sparing the region the widespread destruction caused by Ivan last September.

"It is now over the northern parts of Alabama, and it is not going to be moving too much over the next couple days, and that's not good news," says CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen. "We won't see too much wind damage now, as the winds are dropping down considerably, but the rain is going to be a huge issue."

Floodwater inundated a fishing village and miles of a Panhandle coastal highway, and more than 500,000 customers in three states were left without power, some perhaps for at least three weeks.

But CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports residents of the florida panhandle are waking up to damage, but not a disaster. From most accounts, Dennis could have been much worse.

"I'm not one to say that we dodged a bullet, but it's a pretty apt description," said Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.

In Fort Walton Beach, Fla., cleanup is the order of the day, reports CBS News Correspondent Trish Regan. With debris scattered across the roads, there's plenty of work ahead. But residents of the coastal community view it as a welcomed chore and breathing a sigh of relief that Dennis passed through so quickly.

By 5 a.m., Dennis had weakened to a tropical depression over northeast Mississippi with 35 mph winds. As it moved north-northwest at 14 mph, forecasters warned that Dennis could dump up to 3 to 6 inches of rain as it traveled north through Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and Indiana. Tornadoes were possible in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Dennis caused an estimated $1 billion to $2.5 billion in insured damage in the United States, according to AIR Worldwide Corp. of Boston, an insurance risk modeling company.

In Fort Lauderdale, a man was electrocuted when he stepped on a power line brought down by strong winds. He had been heading toward a house for shelter and apparently didn't see the streetlight cable on the ground, police spokesman Bill Schultz said. His body was found early Sunday.

A fast-moving Category 3 hurricane when it came ashore with 120 mph winds, Dennis was smaller than Ivan and weaker than when it churned through the Gulf of Mexico as a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm.

"We're really happy it was compact and that it lasted only so long," said Mike Decker, who lost only some shingles and a privacy fence at his Navarre home, near where the storm came ashore. "It was more of a show for the kids."

A show it was: Striking less than 50 miles east of where Ivan came ashore, Dennis generated white-capped waves spewing four-story geysers over sea walls. Boats broke loose and bobbed like toys in the roiling ocean. Roofs went flying, power lines fell and rain blew sideways in sheets.