After dropping more than 13 inches of rain along the central east coast and causing flooding through a wide swath of central and southern Florida over the weekeend, hurricane Frances was downgraded to a tropical storm. But it was expected to regain strength over the Gulf of Mexico before pounding the panhandle region. Frances, which was heading west- northwest at 12 m.ph. could reach hurricane intensity again and bring heavy rainfall to the Panhandle and Alabama and Georgia, meteorologists said. In the meantime, forecasters already were tracking hurricane Ivan, a Category 4 storm, moving slowly toward Florida and possibly reaching Cuba by Friday. As for Frances:
• It is blamed for three deaths.
• About 108,000 people were being housed in shelters in Florida.
• Power outages affected more than 5 million people.
• Miami International Airport, which shut down for two days, reopened Sunday, but Orlando and 20 other airports remained closed.
• Disney World and other theme parks in the Orlando area planned to reopen Monday.
• Property damage may be less that that from hurricane Charley, which raced across Florida three weeks ago and caused about $7 billion in insured losses. Frances' path overlapped some of the area hit by Charley, which killed 27 people.
• President Bush plans to appeal to Congress to pay the recovery costs incurred by both storms.
Former President Clinton was undergoing heart surgery as the Monitor went to press. Clinton, who checked himself into New York-Presbyterian Hospital last Friday, received more than 26,000 get-well messages on his foundation's website.
The presidential candidates hit the road in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and several Midwestern states during Labor Day weekend campaigning. Bush was expected to shore up support in Missouri, where strategists say a close race appears to be trending in his direction. Meanwhile, in Canonsburg, Pa., Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry called the invasion of Iraq "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time," and said, if elected, his goal would be to withdraw American troops in his first White House term. To help reinvigorate his campaign, Kerry sought the advice the hospitalized Clinton during a 90-minute telephone conversation Saturday, according to The New York Times.
Because of gusty, dry winds, forestry and fire-protection officials predicted that a wildfire that began Friday near California's famous wine country might not be contained until Wednesday. The 10,000-acre fire, the region's largest this season, was fed by tinder-dry vegetation. Officials estimated the blaze was only 15 percent contained Sunday night. Below, firefighters try to control flames that threatened vacation homes near Geyserville.