Hurricane Frances Nears Florida

9-03-04 - MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) Hurricane Frances, with cloud coverage the size of Texas, is now some 260 miles off the Florida coast.

The category three storm has slowed somewhat, giving residents a little more time to flee what some say could be the most powerful storm to hit the state in more than a decade.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm has become somewhat disorganized, but they warn it could re-intensify before slamming into Florida perhaps as early as tonight.

Florida is ordering 2.5 million people to leave for higher ground. And to help ease the bumper-to-bumper traffic clogging highways, the state is rescinding some tolls and says highway lanes could be reversed if necessary.

Meanwhile, fallen trees, satellite dishes and other debris litter the streets in the Bahamas' capital of Nassau. Hurricane Frances brought 75 mile-an-hour wind gusts that knocked out power and pounded the area with rough surf.

Guests at the 23-hundred-room Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, outside of Nassau, were told to leave their rooms and stay in a conference room.

The storm now is spinning toward the Bahamas' other big city, Freeport, on a path for Florida.