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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Escapes Worst of Hurricane

NAVARRE BEACH, Florida -- With a sigh of relief, Gulf Coast residents began hurricane cleanup again as Hurricane Dennis hit the Florida Panhandle and Alabama on Sunday with less force than anticipated.

Floodwater inundated a fishing village and miles of a Panhandle coastal highway. More than 550,000 customers in four states were left without power, and some could be out for three weeks or more, officials said. But hours after landfall, officials reported little major structural damage.

By 5 a.m. local time, Dennis had weakened to a tropical depression over northeast Mississippi with 56-kilometer-per-hour winds, and forecasters warned it could dump heavy rain and result in some tornadoes as it moved north.

Dennis caused an estimated $1 billion to $2.5 billion in insured damage in the United States, according to AIR Worldwide Corp. of Boston, an insurance risk modeling company.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Monday that while damage was not as widespread as expected, the storm was still devastating to those whose homes were damaged. FEMA crews will be out Monday distributing emergency supplies and then will begin the task of providing long-term relief, he said.

Dennis had churned through the Gulf of Mexico as a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm. In the Caribbean, it claimed at least 20 lives.