Bears down. Storm-weary. Prepare. Hunker down. Ride out. Angry winds.
Pasco residents heard it all again on Saturday as Jeanne approached, and everyone now is tired of the familiar drill. As the hurricane bears down, storm-weary residents prepare to hunker down and ride out the angry winds.
"I know this is getting tiresome," said Michele Baker, the county's director of Emergency Management, "I'm rather tired of taking boards up and down off of my windows as well, but you have to treat this with the respect that it is due."
During the day's first emergency briefing at noon, Baker announced a mandatory evacuation order for Pasco's 125,700 mobile home residents and strongly urged thousands more in low-lying areas to leave.
She also strongly urged residents living in Evacuation Level A and flood prone areas to evacuate. The recommended evacuation for Level A could become an order Saturday evening, she said.
"We anticipate the impact from this storm to be at least as significant as Frances," Baker said, "and there is the potential for it to be more significant."
Because Jeanne was moving faster than Frances, Baker expected less rain, she said. But the county could expect potentially higher winds.
The forecast called for 3 to 6 inches of rain.
Based on Saturday afternoon's forecast, tropical storm force winds were to begin in east Pasco about 1 a.m. today and in west Pasco about 4 a.m. If the storm were to stay on its forecast track, hurricane-force winds could reach east Pasco about 8 a.m., Baker said.
Tropical storm force winds were likely to continue throughout today, she said. "Everybody needs to take this storm with a fresh look."
A decision on whether schools and government offices will be open Monday was expected today.
The stress level in many parts of Pasco seemed lower than before the area's last three scares, maybe because folks are simply tired of worrying.
It looked like any Saturday morning at Lowe's in New Port Richey as most people bought items such as paint, fertilizer, and birdfeeders.
Erika Cole picked up a door handle and some weed killer.
"I didn't move anything back from the last one," she said. "I've got water in the house, and food, and that's all I can do."
At a nearby Publix, the lines were short. Bonnie Eriksen picked up some bread, peanut butter, bottled water and extra kitty litter.
"I'm still preparing as you would for any of the hurricanes coming in," she said.
PASCO EMERGENCY INFORMATION
County residents can access local emergency information on cable television, the Internet or telephone:
TELEVISION: The county provides updated information in text form 24 hours a day on its cable government access channels, Channel 19 in west Pasco and Channel 2 in east Pasco. During times of evacuation, tune in every hour on the 30s _ 12:30, 1:30 and so on _ for live updates by county officials. Sometimes these updates are a few minutes late, so hang on.
INTERNET: The same information is also available on the Pasco County Web site, www.pascocountyfl.net. Click on the emergency information link at the top of the page. A backup site with this information is at www.pascoemergencymanagement.com.
TELEPHONE: The Pasco County Resident Information Center provides answers to general questions: (727) 847-8959 or (352) 521-5137.
Seven shelters opened Saturday ahead of Hurricane Jeanne:
+ River Ridge Middle/High School, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey
+ Wesley Chapel High, 30651 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel
+ Saint Leo University, 33701 State Road 52, Saint Leo
+ Trinity Elementary School, 2209 Duck Slough Blvd., New Port Richey
+ Schrader Elementary, 11041 Little Road, New Port Richey
+ Lacoochee Elementary, 38815 Cummer Road, Lacoochee
+ Zephyrhills High, 6335 12th St., Zephyrhills