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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Florida flood alert as storm strikes
Worker tries to cross a flooded road
Weather forecasters warn of floods and tornadoes
Tropical Storm Barry, which swept across the Florida coast early on Monday morning amid warnings of potential wide-scale scale damage, has considerably weakened.

Fierce winds and heavy rains have battered parts of Florida and Alabama, but there have been no reports of major damage.

If it keeps raining, it's going to get worse and we will have a substantial risk of damage

Craig Fugate, Florida emergency services
Weather watchers say the speed of the wind has dropped from 65 mph (105 km/h) to 40 mph (64 km/h).

However, flood alerts remain in force in northern Florida, southern Georgia and Alabama after almost 10 inches of rain fell on the Florida Panhandle, and local officials have warned of the possibility of tornadoes.

"In the Panhandle, if it keeps raining, it's going to get worse and we will have a substantial risk of damage and people getting cut off," Craig Fugate, Florida's acting emergency management director, told Reuters news agency.

The storm, which at one point had reached hurricane proportions, knocked out power supplies to 34,000 homes in Florida and brought down trees after it hit land at the town of Destin, 60 miles west of Panama City at 0200 local time (0600 GMT).

But despite calls for voluntary evacuations, only 10 to 15 people spent the night in shelters and there were no reports of injuries.

Man boards up a window
Officials say storm damage has been light
"It was not as bad a storm as it could have been," Florida meteorologist Ben Nelson said.

Authorities in Florida were put on alert after the storm, which had been heading across the Gulf of Mexico, unexpectedly veered north on Sunday.

The US Air Force says it moved about 40 aircraft and 300 personnel from Hurlburt Field, near Fort Walton Beach, to Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas as a precaution.

Thousands of oil workers were evacuated from rigs in the Gulf, while all flights to and from Pensocalo Regional Airport were also cancelled.

Forecasters say the winds should continue to weaken as the storm passes over land.

The National Hurricane Center says it is moving in a north-northwesterly direction.

The BBC's Linda Duffin
"Flooding was expected to be the biggest threat from the storm"
See also:

19 Feb 00 | Washington 2000
Decades of major hurricanes ahead
17 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Hurricanes set to grow fiercer
18 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Nature's lethal weapons
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