Florida Breathes Sigh Of Relief

Carolyn Backes, 13 years old, fights the wind and rain as she walks in downtown Mobile, Ala. Sunday July 10, 2005. Hurricane Dennis closed in on the Gulf Coast on Sunday with battering waves and high wind after strengthening into a dangerous storm, roaring toward a region still patching up damage from a hurricane 10 months ago. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
AP
While parts of the mid-Mississippi, Tennessee and lower Ohio valleys all the way into the Carolinas were getting rain from the storm Monday, Gulf Coast residents, with a sigh of relief, began cleaning up from Hurricane Dennis.

Hurricane Dennis hit the

on Sunday with less force than forecasters feared, sparing the region the widespread destruction caused by Ivan last September.

There was scattered flooding in Florida and Georgia, and more than 550,000 customers in four states were without power, with some likely to be out for three weeks or more. However, officials reported little major structural damage.

"I think we dodged a pretty large bullet," said Nick Zangari, a restaurant and bar owner in Pensacola. "I think people took more precautions the second time around."

It was already business as usual Monday morning for casinos along Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

By 5 a.m. Monday, Dennis had weakened to a tropical depression centered over northeast Mississippi with 35 mph wind. As it moved north-northwest at 14 mph and became disorganized during the morning, rain fell across parts of the mid-Mississippi, Tennessee and lower Ohio valleys and into the Carolinas.

One band of rain stalled over Georgia and Peachtree City, a suburb of Atlanta, got more than 6 inches in 18 hours, the National Weather Service said. "We could still see another few inches; it's just not moving," weather service meteorologist Eric Avila said Monday.

Dennis caused an estimated $1 billion to $2.5 billion in insured damage in the United States, according to a projection by AIR Worldwide Corp. of Boston, an insurance risk modeling company. Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurance company, estimated the insured loss at $3 billion to $5 billion.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said

.

"We want to make certain that those who perhaps didn't evacuate, that are still in damaged neighborhoods, that they have the things they need to survive, that they have meals ready to eat, that they have water, that they have a place to sleep," Brown said Monday on CBS News' The Early Show.

"Our objective is to make certain we save people's lives, let them sustain their life, let them get their feet back on the ground, so they can start rebuilding their lives," Brown said.

Beverly Hayes, who runs the Econo-Flash truck stop in Lithia Springs, Ga., says the FEMA inspectors ought to take a look at her block.

"The street right in front of us is flooded, and it's just disrupted business a lot," Hayes told CBS Radio News.

One death was reported, a man electrocuted in Fort Lauderdale when he stepped on a fallen power line, police spokesman Bill Schultz said. Dennis was responsible for at least 20 deaths in the Caribbean, but there's still danger in the U.S.

"Most deaths happen after the storm," said Florida Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.