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Tropical depression Frances threatens flooding, tornadoes for southeast U.S.Tropical depression Frances threatens flooding, tornadoes for southeast U.S.

Tropical depression Frances threatens flooding, tornadoes for southeast U.S.
TFR issued for entire state of Florida

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Student pilot Nate Osborn (left) and Rick Champion of Fort Pierce Jet Center walk through the hangar of the Pan Am International Flight Academy after Hurricane Frances blew through, destroying the roof and damaging most of the airplanes at the St. Lucie County Airport (FPR) (photo courtesy Greg Lovett/ The Palm Beach Post).
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Above: Hurricane Frances' winds damaged this Tri-Pacer at Palm Beach County (LNA) Airport. Below: Hurricane winds blew one Aero Commander into another at LNA. (Photos by Robert Johnston, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer, LNA.)
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Frances may be just a tropical depression now, but the storm is still a danger to parts of the southeast United States. Flood watches are out from Florida north to Maryland, and isolated tornadoes are possible in northern Florida, eastern Georgia, and central and eastern South Carolina.

The FAA has issued a notam for all of Florida, urging pilots to avoid flight below 2,500 feet in "common knowledge disaster areas" so as to avoid interfering with helicopters aiding in relief efforts.

And President Bush is likely to visit the state tomorrow, bringing with him presidential travel temporary flight restrictions, which typically are 60 nautical miles in diameter (30-nm radius) and contain one or more smaller general aviation no-fly zones.

Most airports across central and southern Florida have reopened, although some control towers aren't yet operating and some runways remain closed. Because electricity remains out in many areas, the obstruction lights on towers are also out.

AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Robert Wood at Sebring Regional Airport (SEF) reported, "The center of circulation of Hurricane Frances passed about 8 miles north of KSEF. We had a full blast of northern, western, and southern winds over a 24-hour period.

"The airport sustained only minor, cosmetic damage. The new terminal has a bit of roof damage, though not significant. Other than that it appears that only a couple of older World War II non-used buildings lost some roofing." There was no reported damage to aircraft or hangars.

But Frances did damage Stuart's Witham Field (SUA). The eye of the storm passed directly over Stuart. The Stuart News reports that the hangar housing Martin County's helicopter ambulance sustained serious damage and the hangar housing the county's mosquito control equipment collapsed. Also damaged were facilities owned by Stuart Jet Center, Galaxy Aviation, Vought Aircraft, and Precision Jet.

Some 20 nm to north, St. Lucie County International Airport suffered "catastrophic" damage, the Palm Beach Post reports county officials as saying. Winds shredded the roof of the Pan Am International Flight Academy maintenance hangar and tossed about several aircraft the school wasn't able to fly out of the way. Mirabella Aviation and Lanshe Aerospace also took hard hits, according to the newspaper.

Bob Johnston, ASN volunteer at Palm Beach County Airport (LNA), said, "LNA was virtually spared of structural damage. Even aircraft tied down outside were spared, even with 90 mph-plus winds from north to west."

"Kendall-Tamiami Executive (TMB) faired very well in Frances," said David Bodley, ASN volunteer for the Miami-area airport. "Remembering Andrew, it seems most of the local aircraft left the area, primarily to Key West and Marathon at the last minute when the storm appeared firmly on a more northern course."

Florida Today reports that Melbourne International Airport (MLB) reopened to emergency traffic Monday. The most severe damage at MLB was located on the north side of the property, where high winds damaged several general aviation hangars and ripped siding from the air traffic control tower.

The hurricane did more damage to the Kennedy Space Center than any storm in history, ripping an estimated 1,000 exterior panels from a building where spacecraft are assembled.

September 7, 2004

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