Three Million Told to Flee Jeanne in Fla.
Getting stronger and stronger it appears now.
By JILL BARTON, Associated Press Writer
FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Hurricane Jeanne got stronger, bigger and faster Saturday, forcing anxious Floridians to hurriedly shutter their homes and buy last-minute supplies as the storm bore down on the state's Atlantic coast with winds near 115 mph. Three million people were told to evacuate.
If it hits Florida late Saturday or Sunday as predicted, it would be the fourth hurricane to slam the state this season, a scenario unmatched in more than a century. Jeanne strengthened into a Category 3 storm Saturday, and Jack Beven, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center (news - web sites) in Miami, warned that a Category 4 storm with winds of at least 131 mph "is not out of the question."
Already blamed for more than 1,500 deaths in Haiti, Jeanne was poised to slam some of the same areas hit by the earlier storms, potentially transforming still-uncleared piles of debris into deadly missiles. The storm's outer edges were already dropping rain and kicking up winds along Florida's east coast Saturday afternoon.
From Melbourne south to West Palm Beach, law enforcement officers announced over the radio that anyone outside their homes after a 6 p.m. curfew would end up in jail.
Across Palm Beach County, residents frantically gathered last-minute supplies Saturday after awaking to a forecast that had Jeanne making a direct hit in less than 18 hours.
"I can imagine a lot of people here this morning started freaking out," said Lynn Tarrington of Lake Worth, who was leaving her home near the water. "Yesterday I was hoping we wouldn't lose power again and now I'm hoping I have a house left when I come back."
Airlines began canceling flights at airports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, which were planning to close, stranding some passengers. Authorities urged storm-weary residents to speed up plans to secure their property and evacuate if necessary.