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Nothing unscathed but patience

They skipped shock and anger and went straight to acceptance, and in some cases, even hope. There was too much work to do, they said. No time to be mad at someone or something.

Most of the residents of East Hills, a working class neighborhood of homes at least 50 years old and oak and pine trees even older, have seen hurricane damage before. But never like what Ivan delivered.

East Hills is the high ground, so flooding wasn't the problem. It was the 130 mph wind. Huge oaks lay twisted and snapped across streets and onto porches, cars and roofs. Shingles were scattered like fish scales and windows were blown out. It was the same on every street.

By Friday afternoon, nearly everyone who had fled had come back to size up the damage and figure out what to do next.

"I'm going to file a claim, but there's no use doing it now," said Jeff Hoskins, whose home on West 14th Avenue has an oak tree on the front porch. "There will be 8,000 people filing in front of me, and I don't know if our wind coverage has been cut off. And we don't have power or water or phones. They say it might be four weeks or longer before we get it back.

"But there's no use getting mad. There was nothing we could do. You just have to have patience."

Wearing an American flag T-shirt he had worn since Wednesday, Hoskins said he and his wife and three children would tough it out as long as they could. Or until their generator ran out of gas.

"We'll clean up, try to get more gas and water, and try to find food," he said. "We have enough now to last a week, and if that runs out, we'll have to leave for relatives in Alabama.

"Circle the wagons. At least the kids like it. They don't understand what took place."

With no power and no where to get gas for their cars, neighbors moved chairs and pillows out to front porches and picked their way up and down the street to see who else got hit, and how badly. They shared food, cigarettes, sympathy and Ivan stories.

For the first time many people could remember, they could hear conversations as they walked around their neighborhood.

Under the shade of a palm tree _ the oaks lost most of their leaves in the storm _ a group of neighbors set up plastic chairs in a circle in Gary Shimp's front yard. He had lashed his catamaran to a tree, and it had survived. His house was a different story.

Downed trees and power lines were scattered across his lawn, part of his roof was gone, and the top of his neighbor's chimney had crashed into his backyard.

"Clean up the mess and call the insurance company," he said. "That's all we can do right now. The time to panic is over."

Everyone in the circle nodded, and Shimp took another sip of beer.

One woman said authorities were looking for bodies on the beach. Another said she had heard people in rural parts of the county had painted their phone numbers on the hooves of their horses in case the animals got lost in the storm.

"That's how rumors get started," Shimp said.

Even those whose homes were extensively damaged seemed to take the overwhelming task ahead of them in stride.

Paul Wilshaw said he slept through Ivan and woke up to find holes in his kitchen and bathroom ceiling, put there by the splintered oak that used to be in his back yard.

"This house is 50 years old," he said. "The older homes make it. The newer ones and those mobile homes, they just don't."

While many people still had frozen water in their refrigerators and nonperishable food to eat, a vast number didn't. They had to rely on relief workers trying to make it into town on the parking lot that was U.S. Highway 90.

"About a dozen semis rolled into the shopping center this morning with water and ice,"said Kevin Luecht, whose home on Van Kirk Street had its roof torn off, part of which landed on his 1994 Nissan.

Luecht said he and his mother would file a claim with their insurance company, go down to the shopping center for water every morning, and try to secure the tarp they nailed over the roof.

"Not much more we can do," he said. "We're starting to see the power trucks coming around, and they've been real good about getting us food and water.

"You get over the shock real quick and start thinking about how to rebuild. That's really all you can do."

Escambia County


Population: 307,226

Customers without power: 136,000

Deaths: 7

Residents in shelters: 1,884



Deaths: 33

Insured losses: $7.4-billion

Customers initially without power: 1-million.


Deaths: 30

Insured losses: $5-billion.

Customers initially without power: 3.4-million.


Deaths: 18

Insured losses: $3-billion - $10-billion

Customers initially without power: 443,500.


Meals served: 12-million

Ice distributed: 19.7-million pounds

Cubic yards of debris removed: 8.9 million

Individual applications for federal assistance: 399,602

National Guard members deployed: 5,313

Number of counties eligible for federal assistance for Charley or Frances: 44 of 67.

Number of people in shelters on Saturday: 2,357


Sept. 16 -17

Escambia Co.


Aug 13

Charlotte Co.

Story, 7A


Sept. 4 - 6

Palm Beach Co.

Story, 6A

Sources: State of Florida, U.S. Government

With no power or phone and their food supply running low, friends Clearance Gibson, left, 78, Ernest Moorer, 71, wait outside their East Hill home in Pensacola for the American Red Cross to deliver water and food Saturday. The men rode out Hurricane Ivan in their wood home, which incurred roof and flood damage.

American Red Cross volunteers pass Meals Ready to Eat to William Flawson, 6, and his family in Pensacola on Friday.