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Jeanne triggers mandatory evacuation

County officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes, low-lying areas and homes west of U.S. 19 Saturday afternoon in preparation for Hurricane Jeanne. At 2 p.m., the county opened four shelters, including one for special-needs residents.

County officials also declared a state of emergency at noon.

"(Jeanne) has come a little closer to Citrus County," Capt. Joe Eckstein said.

Inverness Middle School, Lecanto Primary, Lecanto Middle School and Forest Ridge were opened as shelters at 2 p.m. Lecanto Middle School was designated as a special-needs shelter.

Officials awoke Saturday morning to a storm track that appeared more menacing to Citrus County than Friday night information. At a meeting at the county Emergency Operations Center at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, officials met yet again in what has become a familiar scene in recent weeks.

Officials held in place a boil water notice for people in the Arrowhead community, a low-lying area in eastern Citrus County hard-hit by the rising waters of the Withlacoochee River.

Public information officers also announced that local media has a new plan for keeping at least one radio signal up and running for the storm to give residents information. Radio station 88.3 FM will simulcast television weather broadcasts and information if power outages make television broadcasts difficult for residents to receive at their homes. This is a significant change from the situation during Frances, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ronda Hemminger Evan. During Frances, many residents had difficulty receiving information from broadcast media.

Eckstein showed officials maps of Jeanne's latest track at the Saturday afternoon meeting. Jeanne was expected to hit land this morning near St. Lucie. If the track remained the same overnight, Citrus residents would feel winds of up to 60 miles per hour by 7 a.m. today. About 2 p.m., winds could reach hurricane force.

A major concern for officials is the possibility of a storm surge of 8 to 9 feet. If Jeanne continues west at 14 miles an hour, it will reach Citrus County about the time of the 2:44 p.m. high tide, which would bring the highest potential storm surge into the area.

The National Weather Service estimated the county could receive from 3 to 6 inches of rain today.

Sandbag sites opened at 10 a.m. Saturday for residents living in coastal or low-lying areas. Three sites have been set up across the county. They are at 4508 W Gulf to Lake Highway in Crystal River between Dan's Clam Stand and Manatee Lanes; 9556 E Bushnell Road in Floral City; and the fire station in Inverness located at 9837 E Gulf to Lake Highway.

Animal Services representatives will be at the four county shelters to provide care for animals brought in.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be closed today, and park officials said they don't know when it will reopen.

Emergency medical crews will be fully staffed for the storm. Officials urged residents to contact their oxygen providers to have a full supply in case of power outages. Hospitals and shelters are not equipped with enough oxygen to provide everyone for days of oxygen, they said, so people should plan ahead.

Citizen information lines opened Saturday for any storm-related questions or concerns. Those numbers are (352) 746-5470, 527-2106, 746-6555.

Commission Chairman Josh Wooten said officials are prepared for the storm. He said residents seem to be prepared as well, although he understands that everyone is weary after a hurricane season that has pummeled the area.

Wooten and other county officials have met with power companies to try to find a way to get power back on more quickly than the last time for residents whose power goes out during Jeanne.

Power companies, including Progress Energy Florida, promised to get power back on quickly this time around.

"Only time will tell," Wooten said, referring to power company promises. "I don't know that they expected to see another storm just weeks after Frances."

Businesses throughout the county were bustling Saturday morning as people braced for Jeanne. Bank tellers saw long lines as people stocked up on cash. Vehicles jockeyed for position at gas stations. Parking spaces were scarce at grocery stores.

Some people continued on with their regular plans, despite the threat of Jeanne. Citrus County High School Marching Band Boosters held a yard sale in the school parking lot, selling donated lamps, can openers, candles and other items to raise money for the band. They raised about $400 Saturday morning, they said.

"It's hard to deter people from yard sales," said Jackie O'Dell, a booster club member.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or e-mail vansicklesptimes.com.

COUNTY INFORMATION

EMERGENCIES: Call 911.

INFORMATION: The county has activated its citizen information lines. Call 746-5470, 527-2106 and 746-6555 with storm-related questions.

TV and RADIO: County officials encourage residents to monitor local broadcast media outlets such as BayNews 9, WYKE-Ch. 16, WXCV-FM 95.3 (Citrus 95), WKTK-FM 98.5, WIFL-FM 104.3, WMFQ-FM 92.9, WRZN-AM 720 and WOGK-FM 93.7.

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