FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A sodden, slow-moving Hurricane Katrina lumbered ashore on Florida's densely populated southeastern coast yesterday, toppling trees that killed two people, knocking out power to more than 1 million households and dumping so much rain that widespread flooding was feared.
"This isn't so much a wind storm as a rain storm. It's the flooding we're worried about," said Judy Sarver, director of the Broward County Public Communications Office.
Largely because of what he called Katrina's "tremendous rain," Gov. Jeb Bush urged Floridians to prepare carefully for what became the sixth hurricane to strike their state in little over a year.
Katrina made landfall shortly before 7 p.m. at the Broward-Miami-Dade county line, between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted that Katrina, the 11th named storm and third hurricane in an unusually busy Atlantic storm season, could soak areas of South Florida with 6 to 10 inches of rain and up to 15 inches in isolated locations.
Bush said flooding could be severe. "In essence, this is a very dangerous storm," he said. "It's important to take this seriously."
Katrina's sustained winds rose yesterday to 75 mph after trudging west from the Bahamas, raising it from a tropical storm to Category 1 hurricane status. As Katrina approached, public schools in Broward and Miami-Dade counties were closed. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was ordered shut down by 7 p.m., and many flights were canceled at Miami International Airport. Sailings of cruise ships from Miami and Port Everglades were halted.
In Broward County, residents of barrier islands, other low-lying areas and trailer parks were urged by authorities to evacuate. Shelters for evacuees opened in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Florida Power & Light said 7,200 of its workers and others from out-of-state utilities had been mobilized in case they were needed.
As Katrina's gusts and outer rain bands began to buffet South Florida in the early afternoon, palm trees bobbed in strong winds, rain fell in sheets, and crashing waves attracted daredevil surfers to the beach. As conditions worsened, Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne offered a word of advice for would-be drivers: "Don't."
Two people were reported killed by trees blown down by high winds. A man in his 20s in a parked car was killed in Fort Lauderdale, and an unidentified pedestrian died in nearby Plantation, according to Dennis Myers, a Broward County spokesman.
"There are power lines down all over the place," Myers said last night.
Before Katrina made landfall, Floridians jammed service stations to fill up with gasoline, and emptied store shelves of bottled water, bread and other staples. But the storm's sustained winds, which were as low as 50 mph earlier yesterday, convinced many it wasn't worth the sweat and trouble to put up hurricane shutters.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.