(Sept. 27) Even as winds continued to howl through central and northern Florida in the wake of the state’s fourth hurricane in six weeks, growers were trying to assess the damage that Hurricane Jeanne had wrought.

Electricity and telephone communication across the state remained spotty Sept. 27, and much of the state was shut down, including the Lakeland-based Florida Department of Citrus, which was expected to reopen Sept. 28.

“It’s been difficult to get anybody,” said Ray Gilmer, a spokesman for the Orlando-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, which is holding its annual convention in Naples, Fla. “Communications are down, or they’re out in the field, but we’ve heard from folks who are here or the ones we’ve reached on the phone, that this was another serious storm. The Indian River section was hit very hard again.”

The hurricane was a virtual replay of Hurricane Frances, which blasted through the state along the same path three weeks earlier.

Jeanne, which had trundled its way through the Caribbean over the previous week, came ashore about 35 miles north of West Palm Beach around midnight Sept. 26 with 120-mph winds. The storm then blew up the central region the state, just east of the Panhandle. By Sept. 27, Jeanne had weakened and peak winds had dropped to about 40 mph as it headed north.

Hurricane Charley blasted Florida's southwest coast Aug. 13. The next storm, Frances, struck the state’s Atlantic coast Sept. 5. The third hurricane, Ivan, hammered the western Panhandle Sept. 16.

Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane when it made landfall at Hutchinson Island, 35 miles north of West Palm Beach — almost the same spot Frances struck. The 400-mile wide storm stretched across the peninsula, passing northeast of Tampa and near Tallahassee.

The status of Florida’s fall and winter crops was not known by late Sept. 27.

The latest storm likely would cause delays for various crops, said Reggie Brown, manager of the Orlando-based Florida Tomato Committee.


“It will set back the crop in the Fort Pierce area and the Palm Beach area,” Brown said of the tomato crop. “It was reset and re-nurtured after Frances (hit). After staying home and watching it blow by inside the house, I can’t imagine how it felt being a tomato outside the house during the course of this thing.”

In Georgia, growers were told to expect a lot of rain but few other problems.

“We’ve only gotten a couple of inches of rain,” said Michael Hively, general manager of Reidsville, Ga.-based Bland Farms, a Vidalia onion grower-shipper. “We do have the first two plantings of our seed beds completed, and I don’t think that cost any major erosion or problems like that. The only thing is, the earlier hurricane kept us from planting the first seed beds on time, so everyone is about a week behind.

“I don’t anticipate any real problems at this point.”