4 killed as Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Florida
5.9m residents are in storm's projected path
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Hurricane Katrina felled trees, peeled off roofs, and left more than 1.3 million customers without power as it slammed into Florida's densely populated southeastern coast yesterday and early today. Four people were killed, three by falling trees.
The storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane just before it made landfall along the Miami-Dade and Broward county line between Hallandale Beach and North Miami Beach. Weather officials said flooding was the main concern as the storm dropped 10 inches of rain in Key Biscayne and 15 inches in the greater Miami-Dade County area.
Rain fell in horizontal sheets, seas were estimated at 15 feet and wind gusted to 92 miles per hour, toppling trees and street signs.
An overpass under construction in Miami-Dade County collapsed onto a highway, authorities said. No injuries were immediately reported.
Late yesterday, Katrina was centered in northwest Miami-Dade County, heading west at 6 miles per hour. An estimated 5.9 million Florida residents were in the storm's projected path.
The storm proved fatal for four people who ignored warnings to stay inside until the worst was over. A man in his 20s in Fort Lauderdale was crushed by a falling tree as he sat in his car, while a pedestrian was killed by a falling tree in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Plantation. A woman who was struck by a tree died at a hospital in Hollywood, officials said.
A 79-year-old man in Cooper City also died when his car struck a tree, Broward County officials said. No other details were immediately available.
''The message needs to be very clear: It's not a good night to be out driving around," National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield. ''The back side of the core of the hurricane has yet to come. It's not over yet."
The usually bustling streets of Miami Beach, a tourist haven, were largely deserted as the storm pounded the area. The city is hosting celebrities and partygoers in town for the MTV Video Music Awards. MTV called off its pre-awards festivities yesterday and today.
''It's like a ghost town out here," said Mark Darress, concierge at The Astor Hotel in Miami Beach.
Tourists and others hoping to get out of town before the storm were stranded as airlines canceled flights at Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, which both closed last night.
Three mobile home parks in Davie sustained considerable damage, according to the Broward Emergency Management Agency.
When the eye of the hurricane passed over the National Hurricane Center in west Miami-Dade County, forecasters ran outside to experience the calm at the center of the storm.
Katrina is the second hurricane to hit the state this year.