Local News

Now a Tropical Storm, Danny Lingers Over Alabama

Posted July 20, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— After pummeling Alabama's resort coast with heavy rain and high wind, Hurricane Danny was downgraded to a tropical storm as it edged slowly toward the Florida Panhandle early Sunday.

At least one death was blamed on the storm and some 20,000 homes and businesses were without power. The American Red Cross provided shelter to some 2,000 people across Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, while hundreds of residents fled inland to avoid high winds and flooding.

Danny lost some of its circular shape and its 80-mph winds weakened to 70 mph with some gusts to hurricane strength late Saturday. It was unlikely to become a hurricane again as it moves inland, said Don Faulkner of the National Weather Service's Mobile office.

But the storm remained virtually parked over Mobile Bay near Gulf Shores early Sunday, about 30 miles southwest of Pensacola, Fla.

``We anticipate some weakening, but we're still getting rain and wind,'' said National Weather Service meteorologist Randy McKee in Mobile. ``There's just nothing to push it or pull it, so it's just meandering over the bay.''

With maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, Danny remained a relatively smallish hurricane until weakening, a far cry from Hurricane Frederic, which ravaged this seashore resort area in 1979.

Ground floors in some homes took water and some roads were flooded, but major routes remained passable. The lone death blamed on the storm was a 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. The children thought it was an adventure.

``They thought it was pretty cool, all the wind and the rain,'' she said.

By JESSICA SAUNDERS,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.