Hurricane hits Alabama coast hard

By Jessica Saunders Associated Press Published:

After edging across the mouth of the bay shortly after midnight, the hurricane's

movement was virtually nonexistent for much of the day, battering the same

area without relief.

By about 5:30 p.m. EDT, Danny was losing some of its circular shape and

the winds had decreased, making it difficult for meteorologists to determine

where exactly the eye was.

``We anticipate some weakening, but we're still getting rain and wind,''

said National Weather Service meteorologist Randy McKee in Mobile.

The threat of tornadoes sent thousands to emergency shelters or the safety

of inland motels. At least one death was blamed on the storm. About 20,000

homes and businesses lost power.

``The wind got to rocking the motor home so bad we got scared and came in

here,'' said Carl Foster, in a shelter set up at a high school. Foster and

his wife usually live in a seaside house built on pilings.

Despite the damage, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, Danny remained

a relatively smallish hurricane, a far cry from Hurricane Frederic, which

ravaged this seashore resort area in 1979.

``This is nothing compared to Frederic,'' said Pleasant Church, 65, who

has lived in the area for nearly three decades. ``This is a little blip.''

Nevertheless, rainfall was extreme. In the worst hit areas of Mobile County

and Dauphin Island, nearly 30 inches had fallen since early Friday.

Ground floors in some homes took water and some roads were flooded, but

major routes remained passable. There were few travelers, yet some worked

hard to enjoy their vacations despite the severe weather.

At the scenic Grand Hotel in nearby Point Clear, restaurant guests ate a

continental breakfast as the center of the storm moved overhead Saturday

morning, watching bayside pine trees whipped by high wind.

With the help of generators, Grand Hotel manager David Monroe vowed to stage

a Saturday afternoon wedding in the ballroom as planned ``come hell or high

water.''

On its crawl toward Alabama, the storm's outer bands brought rain and stormy

seas to the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, threatening the Florida Panhandle

as well.

A lack of prevailing winds kept Danny churning virtually in place, McKee

said.

``There's just nothing to push it or pull it, so it's just meandering over

the bay,'' he said.

Tropical Storm Alberto was similar in 1994 when it stopped over southern

Georgia and dumped torrential rains. Stationary storms ``are not rare, but

they're not common,'' McKee said.

Some 1,600 people sought refuge Saturday in 12 shelters in Baldwin and Mobile

counties, and hundreds more went inland to ride out the storm.

The lone death blamed on the advancing storm was an unidentified man whose

body was found Friday near a swamped sailboat off Fort Morgan.

Most of the property damage was limited to torn roofs and falling tree limbs,

but a four-story Gulf Shores condominium project under construction crashed

in the strong wind.

``It looked like something you'd see on TV, like it was in slow motion,''

said Bonnie Larkin, who lives next door. ``It just buckled and went down,

like a domino effect.''

Along Mobile Bay's fashionable Eastern Shore, where bayfront estates sit

beneath tall pines and trees sheathed in Spanish moss, the storm knocked

dead limbs to the ground but pleasure boat marinas were reported mostly

unscathed.

Patricia Shepard fled to a shelter from Gulf State Park, where she and 11

relatives had been camping out. The children thought it was all part of

the adventure.

``They thought it was pretty cool, all the wind and the rain,'' Shepard

said.

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