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County preparing for Jeanne's winds

Pasco officials will decide today whether to recommend evacuations for all residents in mobile homes, manufactured homes and low-lying areas in anticipation of Hurricane Jeanne's winds.

Forecasts on Friday afternoon predicted the storm would follow the eastern Florida coastline on Sunday. If that happens, Jeanne's outer edge is expected to brush Pasco County with tropical winds exceeding 40 mph. Tropical winds could last from 3 a.m. Sunday to 3 a.m. Monday in east Pasco, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday in west Pasco.

"We're looking at tropical storm force winds most of the day Sunday," said Michele Baker, the county's director of emergency management. "The exact track (of the eye of the storm) is not as important as the fact that tropical storm winds extend 145 miles from the center."

Baker anticipates a voluntary evacuation notice for the 125,700 residents in mobile and manufactured homes countywide and thousands more in low-lying areas, although the order could become mandatory "if it comes closer and the situation gets worse."

She expects to make the call after reviewing today's 11 a.m. forecast from the National Weather Service. She urged residents to secure their homes and stay tuned to local radio or television for information on evacuations and shelter locations.

Information also will be provided on government cable access (Channel 19 in west Pasco and Channel 2 in east Pasco), and on the county's Web site, www.pascocountyfl.net/oem/index.asp or www.pascoemergencymanagement.com.

While county officials refueled their vehicles Friday and started preparing for the hurricane, the storm-weary public apparently took a wait-and-see attitude. Some still had their supplies left over from earlier storms.

The aisles at the Home Depot in Port Richey saw only the usual home improvement traffic.

"At this point we really haven't seen an increase in any of our customer traffic in relation to this latest hurricane," said assistant store manager Jeff Rosenberg. "But I'm sure things may change."

It was too soon Friday to tell what kind of rain Jeanne could bring to an already saturated Pasco County, Baker said.

But officials will be ready to respond, she said.

"We're still in flood response mode," Baker said. "We're still pumping. We haven't really stopped because of the recovery from Frances. So the good news is it's not hard for us to get started again."

Bridget Hall Grumet covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is hallsptimes.com.

EMERGENCY

SANDBAGS

According to Pasco County Emergency Management, sand and sandbags are available today at the following locations:

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 10, 7912 Rhodes Road in Hudson.

+ Pasco County Public Works Building, 7536 State St. (at West Pasco Government Complex) in New Port Richey.

+ Veteran's Memorial Park, 14333 Hicks Road in Hudson.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 24, 14317 Fourth St. in Dade City.

+ Zephyrhills Fire Department, 38410 Sixth Ave. in Zephyrhills.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 16, 34335 Chancey Road in Zephyrhills.

+ Pasco County Fire Station No. 17, 4251 Seven Springs Blvd. in Holiday.

+ Land O'Lakes Recreation Center, 3032 Collier Parkway in Land O'Lakes.

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