It might be a couple of days before Isaac has any impact on Hernando County. But it's not too soon to start planning, emergency management director Cecilia Patella said Thursday.
Check your emergency plans. Make sure supply kits are up to date. Pay attention to official forecasts. Be aware of the latest storm track.
As Hernando residents were beginning to put away supplies of batteries and nonperishable food, Patella and her staff were preparing the county's Emergency Operations Center for the potential onslaught of agency representatives who will be called in if the storm threatens.
Patella said her office was also monitoring the rising water on the Withlacoochee River at the Trilby and Croom gauges. Officials predicted that the river would reach "action" stage at some point Thursday, meaning residents along the river need to begin to prepare for the possibility of flooding.
The river remained 1 to 2 feet below flood stage Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Denise Moloney warned that people who have been flooded recently can expect to be flooded again if Isaac brings significant rainfall.
Now is the time to protect property, Moloney said.
Patella said the concern is that, with Tropical Storm Debby in late June and all of the rain that has come since, there will be nowhere for the water from Isaac to go.
"The ground is already saturated, which means that it will flood," she said.
High winds could also be an issue if the storm passes close enough.
As with every storm, Patella urged residents who might need to evacuate to find a friend or relative to provide shelter. Public shelters are considered a last resort and will be opened if needed, she said.
Also, since the last major storm threatened Hernando, the county has added a pet-friendly shelter.
The rules for the pet-friendly shelter, the form that pet owners must sign, registration forms for residents who might need to stay at a "special needs" shelter and a list of shelter locations can be found at hernandosheriff.org/em.
Other storm information is available at the National Weather Service site: nhc.noaa.gov.
Hernando school officials are also making preparations for the storm. Fourteen of the district's schools are used as emergency shelters.
Superintendent Bryan Blavatt sent out a letter to principals, asking them to urge parents to pay close attention to the news media over the weekend. He said there is a possibility school could be disrupted next week.
"We will make a decision as early as possible to prevent problems, but it is important to be prepared," Blavatt said.
Families will be updated about any closings or other news through the district's phone system.
The district is also preparing for what might happen down the road.
"If the classes are canceled, we've already started to look at the implications with the school year and how to deal with that," Blavatt said.
Patella also send email to county workers, reminding them to take care of their personal hurricane preparations as soon as possible so they can be ready to swing into action early next week if the storm affects Hernando County.
In anticipation of what might come, workers in the county's Utilities Department were making sure that all county water tanks are full and that all generators at sewage lift stations are fueled. Equipment that might be needed if the storm approaches has also already been loaded onto trailers, said Susan Goebel-Canning, environmental services director.
Silt screening has also been added at the Peck Sink storm drainage site south of Brooksville, where large mounds of dirt have been delivered to repair erosion damage that was caused by Debby and other heavy summertime rains, Goebel-Canning said.
In addition, workers at the Hernando County landfill have been busy building dikes and swales to be sure that water collected during the storm doesn't leave the site. That includes work to try to avoid a situation like the one that occurred during Debby, when water surrounding the recycling center at the site caused pickups to be canceled for several days, Goebel-Canning said.
Staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.