Tropical Storm Frances hit Florida for a second time, drenching the state's panhandle, after slamming the peninsula and causing billions of dollars in damage. The center of the storm reached the beach community of St. Marks this afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said in its advisory at 2 p.m. local time. Frances struck Florida's east coast over the weekend before moving across the state with rain and high winds, knocking out power to about 3.2 million businesses and residences. ``It is wet and blowing,'' said Larry Halsey, agricultural extension director in Jefferson County, where St. Marks is located. ``This is a big storm and it is moving slow so that means lots of flooding.'' Frances is expected to dump 12 inches (30 centimeters) to 15 inches of rain, with the possibility of as much as 20 inches, said Halsey, citing forecasts from Florida's emergency operations center. St. Marks, about 25 miles south of Tallahassee, is at the eastern end of the panhandle in an area called the Big Bend. Frances's maximum sustained winds were almost 65 mph (105 kph), compared with 110 mph when the storm arrived yesterday. The storm is moving north-northwest at about 8 mph, with the center moving inland during the next 12 hours to 24 hours, forecasters said. Its chances of becoming a hurricane again diminished as it hit land, the advisory from the Miami-based center said. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when the sustained winds reach 74 mph, reports Bloomberg. According to VOANews, after crossing the Florida peninsula and coastal portions of the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Frances struck the Florida panhandle. Frances, an extremely slow-moving storm caused heavy flooding and at least two deaths in Florida. The storm also caused several deaths in the Bahamas. Initial damage estimates indicate that Frances did not cause the sort of damage that Hurricane Charley inflicted last month in parts of southwest Florida. The storm system known as Frances moved into the southeastern United States after drenching Florida with more than 30 centimeters of rain. Heavy winds associated with the storm brought down trees and power lines as the storm moved in from the Atlantic Ocean and across the state. Cragin Mosteller a spokesperson for Florida's Department of Emergency Operations says Frances left so much debris in its path, that Floridians should exercise caution before leaving their shelters. Tropical Storm Frances, a once fearsome hurricane that prompted evacuation orders for 2.5 million people, faded on Monday after smacking Florida for a second time. More than 6 million people were still without power as Frances rolled ashore in the Florida Panhandle with torrential rains. But the storm's winds, measured at 145 mph in the Atlantic last week, were down to 45 mph as it moved overland into Georgia and Alabama. Frances killed at least five people on its long trek -- two in the Bahamas and three in Florida. State officials said a woman was killed when a tree fell on her home, a man died in a car crash on a rain-slick road and an 81-year-old man suffered a fatal fall while walking his dog during the storm. The White House asked Congress on Monday to approve $2 billion in emergency funding for Florida. President Bush was scheduled to visit the election battleground state on Wednesday. A huge and slow-moving storm, Frances raged through the Bahamas late last week and lumbered into Florida's east coast as a hurricane on Saturday with 105 mph winds. It cut electric lines, disrupted telephone services, felled trees, damaged homes and smashed boats, informs Reuters.
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