Hurricane Ivan may spare Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Areas of Florida’s boating industry hardest hit by Hurricane’s Charley and Frances will likely be spared their third strike from a major storm in less than a month, according to a story in the Tallahassee Democrat today.

The newspaper quoted state meteorologist Ben Nelson who said this morning that if the storm strikes Florida at all, it would most likely hit the west Panhandle portion of the state, and may well miss Florida entirely.

The hurricane could make landfall Wednesday afternoon or night or Thursday in Alabama, Mississippi or even Louisiana, the newspaper reported.

Ivan’s likely near miss – while bad news for residents and businesses farther west on the Gulf Coast – would provide some welcome respite for Florida’s boating industry, still cleaning up from the last two storms.

Joe Lewis, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Florida, said in a telephone interview with Boating Industry magazine this morning that the industry is still in the initial stages of what will be a long recovery process.

“It really depends now on how fast the insurance companies respond and on how badly people are hurt by deductibles,” Lewis said. “It’s really in their hands right now. I’m guessing it’s probably going to be two or three years before we see a full recovery.”

Lewis said Florida has had good luck where hurricanes are concerned over the past 10 years, but that this year his state’s luck ran out.

“If you look at the records, you’ll find that North Carolina has actually been hit by more hurricanes in the last decade than Florida has,” Lewis said. “We’ve dodged countless bullets, and it just caught up to us this year.”

With Ivan, it looks as though Florida may finally have dodged another bullet – for now.

“We’re watching it carefully, the further west it moves the better for us,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately those people in Louisiana might not be so lucky. But when they move this slowly you can never really be out of danger until they pass you.”

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