Ivan dumps heavy rain on Texas, Louisiana; Jeanne menaces Florida

Friday, September 24th 2004, 6:25 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) _ Ivan's second foray into the United States came with little wind but plenty of the rain Friday as it raked the Caribbean and eastern United States, while Floridians braced for another pounding as Hurricane Jeanne geared up for a possible weekend landing.

After looping into the Atlantic and back into the Gulf of Mexico following its initial strike on the Alabama-Florida coast as a hurricane last week, Ivan washed ashore as a tropical storm near the Texas-Louisiana line.

Parts of southwestern Louisiana received as much as 8 inches of rain, and Jefferson County in Texas received between 3 and 3.5 inches in a four-hour period.

The 3-week-old system was downgraded to a tropical depression early Friday and continued to weaken. Its center was about 10 miles north of Livingston, Texas, with sustained winds of 10 to 15 mph.

By Friday morning, much of the heavy rain had subsided. Conditions in Houston were partly cloudy and about 81 degrees, said Chuck Frazier, Orange County's emergency management director.

``It's beautiful here right now,'' he said.

Florida residents had that oh-no-not-again feeling as nearly 100-mph Hurricane Jeanne appeared to be zeroing in this weekend for what would be the state's fourth thrashing this season.

Jeanne has already been blamed for at least 1,100 flooding deaths in Haiti. At 11 a.m. EDT, Jeanne was about 290 miles east of Great Abaco Island in the northwestern Bahamas and moving west at 9 mph. It was expected to reach Florida by Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It had top sustained winds of 100 mph, down about 5 mph from a day earlier.

Some projections showed the storm hitting central Florida and then moving up the coast to North Carolina by Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch Friday morning for portions of the Florida East coast.

``It's time for Floridians to seriously pay attention,'' said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the hurricane center.

Girding for the storm, Kennedy Space Center director James Kennedy ordered the base closed to all nonessential personnel on Friday. NASA's spaceport is still trying to repair damage caused by Frances and Charley.

In all, four tropical weather systems were churning Thursday.

Hurricane Ivan broke up after hitting the United States, but a piece of it spun back and reformed in the Gulf of Mexico as a minimal tropical storm.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Karl stayed on an open-ocean course with 80 mph winds that threatened only ships, while tropical depression Lisa moved slowly far out in the Atlantic.

The hurricane season ends Nov. 30.