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Evac order finds mixed reception

As police used bullhorns Saturday night to urge residents of the Linger Longer Mobile Home & R.V. Park to get out, Joe Mandich decided he and Rex, his Lhasa apso, would evacuate _ to the cab of his black Ford F-350.

"This is a really heavy truck _ built for high winds," said the 62-year-old retired auto plant worker from Ohio.

When Charley was headed this way, he drove his truck toward Atlanta. For Frances, he stayed put in the mobile home he has lived in for five years.

This time, the storm-weary Mandich believed Jeanne was serious, and he was vulnerable. Sticking it out in the truck meant he'd be safe and close to his bathroom and refrigerator. He had two tanks of gas, a stock of cigarettes and the radio tuned to all-hurricane news, all the time.

Not far from Mandich's truck, a score of his neighbors sought shelter in Linger Longer's rec hall. Park residents were supposed to have a barbecue/hurricane cleanup party Sunday. But instead of picking up old storm debris, neighbors huddled around a tiny television, played cards and entertained their pets.

The devastating images of destroyed mobile homes from Charley, Frances and Ivan hardly frightened this bunch. "We've had practice" evacuating, said Nancy Powers, who along with her husband, John, manages the park of 97 homes and 150 RV sites.

"You think, if a hurricane came in a Category 5, no matter if you live in a concrete castle or a tent, you better get out," Powers said.

A few thousand Pinellas residents did retreat to shelters Sunday. More than 500 from as far away as Clearwater rode out the storm at East Lake High School.

The mandatory evacuation order had not been issued when Sylvia "Duffy" Carter, 69, went to bed about 11 p.m. Saturday, but she set her alarm for 2 a.m. so she could get up and check the news.

"I felt that something was going to happen," said Carter, a retired federal government worker who lives in the Briar Creek Mobile Home Park in Safety Harbor.

Carter, who has left her mobile home for other storms, said she did not consider second-guessing the evacuation when firefighters went through the park broadcasting the order over loudspeakers.

"I don't need an invitation from God to get out of harm's way," she said.

Dorothy and Richard Mato went to East Lake High from their home at Shady Lane Village Mobile Home Park near the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

"Most of my neighbors stayed, but he (Richard) promised my children he'd take care of me," said Mato, 63, a retired substance abuse counselor.

Mato moved to Florida from Long Island earlier this year and felt a little isolated at first. But this year's storms have changed that.

"Now I feel loyal to Florida because it's gotten beat up and punched," she said. "Now I feel like a Floridian."

Largo resident Raymond James, 52, broke out his trusty supply of Budweiser beer and stayed in his mobile home in High Point to protect it from looters.

After losing power while watching Tales from the Crypt on Sunday afternoon, James got together with several of his neighbors to watch the winds whip around the park. A squirrel scampered around outside in the pelting rain.

"If the squirrel can deal with it, so can we," said his neighbor, Wayne Huntington, 46.

Paul Rainville, 77, wasn't anxious. Jaded, maybe. He made sure he had enough food and water stockpiled in his mobile home at Louis Palms Senior Mobile Home Park in Largo.

"It's just a small chance it'll be serious," he said.

The storm shook up his home a little bit. Part of his screen was ripped, and his mailbox fell down.

"Most people stayed," he said. "(We) felt it was safe."

Many residents, however, picked up that Jeanne's threat was real.

Alan and Priscilla Moniz scrambled Sunday morning to gather some necessities, pack snacks in coolers and leave their home in Crystal Bay mobile home park. The couple, who have lived in their one-bedroom trailer for about a year, rode out the first few evacuations at their son's home in Sumter County.

Not this time, Priscilla Moniz said, "He's going to get it worse than us."

They went to the Red Cross shelter at the United Methodist Church in Tarpon Springs.