Florida prepares for third hurricane in one month

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Post-Hurricane Frances clean up and restoration efforts continued in Florida as the beleaguered state braced for yet another hurricane in the worst storm season the state has seen for generations.

With the National Hurricane Center in Miami expecting Hurricane Ivan to hit the Florida Keys late Sunday or early Monday, Monroe County Emergency Management ordered a mandatory evacuation of nonresidents Thursday morning. The agency also urged mobile home residents to leave at that time as parks and schools closed.

At press time, Hurricane Ivan was still too far away to accurately predict its path, but on Thursday the National Hurricane Center predicted Ivan, rated as an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane with wind speeds topping out at 160 mph, would move from the Keys straight north through central Florida and hit the Orlando region early-morning on Sept. 14, just one month after Hurricane Charley came ashore as a Category 4 storm Aug. 13 near Punta Gorda on the West Coast.

Several Cocoa Beach properties sustained serious damage from Hurricane Frances, which hit the state as a strong Category 2 storm, and are closed for extended periods. Holiday Inn Cocoa Beach, Hilton Cocoa Beach and Doubletree Cocoa Beach will be closed for an expected eight to 12 weeks. Howard Johnson Express Cocoa Beach is closed indefinitely. But at weeks end the beach is open, most retail stores and restaurants remained open and major highways in the area are open.

Coastal properties from Palm Beach to St. Augustine were the main victims of Frances, but most were back in business by the end of the week, according to a spokesman for Visit Florida. Hardest hit were oceanfront hotels in Palm Beach, Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach.

According to a spokeswoman of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the industry was still assessing the damage at press time. Power is an issue, but as each hour goes by Florida Power & Light is making progress. Well have a better idea of the damage once everybody has power. Were still waiting to hear from a lot of our partners in the industry.

In spite of some hotel closings in Daytona Beach, the spokeswoman said, There is no lack of places to stay. We have 13,000 rooms in the Daytona Beach area.

Visit Florida recommended calling hotels directly to check on their condition and call to confirm airline reservations. The organizations Web site, www.visitflorida.org, also will post updates and links to emergency hotline information.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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