Gulf coast residents began to clean up Monday, following a less powerful than feared Hurricane Dennis. Salvation Army relief teams are making their way to the most affected areas.
Although the hurricane flooded homes and knocked down power lines, the damage was less widespread than that of Hurricane Ivan last year.
As it approached the Gulf Coast on Sunday morning, Dennis had been classified as a very dangerous Category 4 storm, whipping up 145 mph winds. However 50 miles before landfall, it weakened to a Category 3 storm as it hit between the Florida Panhandle and Alabama near the city of Pensacola with sustained winds of 115-120 mph.
There was extensive flooding throughout that area. More than 550,000 people across five states lost power according to the Associated Press. Some could be without electricity for up to 3 weeks.
"We anticipate basically the full state of Alabama being affected at least for a week here with flooding and some rain issues like that. So again we'll have an immediate response there in the Alabama area and the northeast quadrant of Mississippi," said Maj. Roy Johnson, Salvation Army divisional secretary for Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, according to WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss.
Last year's Hurricane Ivan was much more destructive to property, causing $7 billion in damage. According to the AP, Dennis caused from $1 billion to $2.5 billion in uninsured damage, said AIR Worldwide Corp. of Boston, an insurance risk modeling company.
The Salvation Army, which had mobilized units across five states to assist in the aftermath of the storm, was making its way to affected areas.
On Sunday, thirty Salvation Army feeding trucks, known as canteens, stopped in Jackson, Miss. to help the victims. Each canteen can serve up to 30,000 meals per day. The trucks came from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma and would be heading down to the hardest hit areas of Alabama and Mississippi, according to WLBT-TV.
The relief teams planned to open two feeding centers at 10 a.m. on Monday in Escambia County, Florida, where Pensacola is located. Eight more centers are expected to arrive in the afternoon, according to local station, CBS-TV 47.
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Monday that for those who did experience damages, the storm had still been devastating.
"We have to get help to them," said Michael Brown, FEMA director on NBC's "Today." The Agency will be distributing emergency supplies and long term relief.
President Bush issued a major disaster declaration for Florida. He also declared 38 counties in Mississippi and 45 in Alabama as federal disaster areas, which means they are eligible for FEMA aid.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will tour of the affected areas in his state for Monday morning.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm is gaining strength far out in the Atlantic Ocean, according to AP. Forecasters say it will become a tropical storm tomorrow. It will be called Emily and is headed in the general direction of the Caribbean Islands and Florida.