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In storms, leaders react just like we do

People often in the news as public figures worry about storms and buy emergency supplies just like the rest of us.

Neighborhood Times chatted with several this week to see what they did during Jeanne. Here are a few of their stories:

St. Petersburg City Council member Richard Kriseman attended Yom Kippur services on Saturday, then returned to his west St. Petersburg home and began moving inside anything that might fly in heavy wind: lawn furniture, children's toys and a flag staff on the house.

"I don't think I'm unusual in this. I had just put everything back and here it comes again, and I can't believe this is happening," Kriseman said. "I hate to say this: I think people were a little bit burned out, exhausted and emotionally drained.'

Kriseman said he and his family, which includes a 7-year-old daughter and a 22-month-old son, still had plenty of supplies left over from purchases during Hurricane Charley's threat nearly seven weeks ago.

Concerned with leaving permanent holes in the house's vinyl siding, Kriseman said he didn't put up boards. He said his windows have double-insulated glass and that he had hurricane clips placed on the house four years ago.

Holly Carlson, director of Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School in Shore Acres, said she thought Pinellas was in the clear when she went to bed about midnight Saturday. Despite high winds, she dressed for church Sunday morning, only to find services had been canceled.

She monitored the storm's progress throughout the day from her Riviera Bay home. She called to check on friends who experienced damage from previous storms after her power went out about noon.

When she heard Sunday evening that Pinellas County schools would be closed Monday, she decided to close LCC in keeping with the school's policy to follow the public schools' closing schedule. She went to work as usual.

"When I got home around 5:30, I started getting phone calls from people who heard Pinellas County was closing (Tuesday)," she said. "Based on having been at the school, I decided it would be safe for folks to come to school. I started calling all of the staff and asking them to call their families."

City Council member Virginia Littrell rode out the storm in her Old Northeast house, built in the early 1930s.

"I stayed home and watched the screens fly off the side of my house. I watched the TV antenna come down and all that good stuff," Littrell said.

She said a leak developed on the roof of a back room, allowing water to cover a hardwood floor.

Littrell had plenty of basic supplies, including batteries, a radio and canned food in case of a power outage. But her house didn't lose electricity until Monday morning. It stayed out about two hours.

Monday morning, she and her neighbors gathered on 19th Avenue NE for a debris cleanup project.

On Sunday, a jacaranda fell into the street and an oak fell onto a neighbor's roof. During the height of the storm, someone arrived with a chain saw and removed the trees. Littrell said she didn't know if the good Samaritan was a neighbor or a commercial company.

Barbara Shorter, former principal of Gibbs High, evacuated to Pasco County when Charley was looming, but stayed in her Broadwater house for Jeanne.

"Something about the rain mesmerizes me. I like to look at it outside. I just did a lot of catching up on reading," Shorter said.

"I did think this was the worst wind I've seen in this area, and I've lived here all my life," Shorter said.

Her electricity stayed on, but she lost her cable television. "I missed the Bucs game and everything else," she said.

The Rev. Louis Murphy of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church lives in an evacuation zone. He and his wife, Filomena, are the parents of Chiriga, a college student, and Louis Jr., a senior in high school. They also have a 6-month-old grandson, Jair.

Emergency situations call on him more than ever to balance responsibilities at home and at church, Murphy said.

"Once you know that things are okay at the church, you've got to make sure everything is okay at the house," he said.

"It just seems to work out okay." As the leader of a religious community, Murphy's hurricane preparation starts with what he sees as the basics.

"I pray that God would protect our home from the north, south, east and west," he said. "Not only do I pray for our home, but for every church member. And then I pray for everyone in the path, that the Lord would be merciful."

Then it's time to take action like everyone else.

"I go out and get the necessary items in case there is no electricity, flashlights, batteries, propane lamps. I went to Lowe's and got the plywood and cut it out and got the hurricane clips and put them up," he said.

The pastor said he also pays close attention to the news in order to make the right decisions for his family as well as his congregation. He canceled church services for Frances, he said, but people who didn't get the message showed up anyway.

It's one reason he didn't cancel this past Sunday's service.

"For one, I had a better feeling," he said. "If (church members) feel a necessity to come to the house of the Lord and worship or receive some sort of spiritual enlightenment, I want to be there."

His message: "How to handle a storm."

City Council member Earnest Williams' Lakewood house is in a nonevacuation zone. He said he spent a lot of time arranging the outside of the house making sure lawn and deck furniture remained securely tied down, placing outdoor tables under the deck, moving cars away from trees and moving the grill to the garage.

He had plenty of ice, water and batteries, and said he is still thinking about getting a generator. He has a radio that can be powered by electricity, a cranked charger or solar energy.

"We also filled the bathtub. If your power goes out and the pumping station goes down, then the only way you can flush is gravitation, using water from the bathtub," he said.

And food? "Some of the things we keep on hand I like anyway," said Williams, citing in particular smoked oysters and canned spaghetti.

On Friday, associate school superintendent Ron Stone realized that his workweek would continue through the weekend.

As the district's spokesman, his job includes informing School Board personnel, including principals, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, plant operators and nurses, about shelter openings. He also is responsible for letting parents and the media know whether schools will be open or closed.

"I spent the weekend on the phone getting information from Tom Gavin, chief of schools police, and fielding calls from the media," Stone said. "Then I broadcast e-mails to the media and employees updating them on what was happening."

Stone's location during the storm depends on where the county's emergency operations center asks him to go. He spent Hurricane Charley at the EOC in Clearwater. He worked out of his Seminole home when the other storms hit.

That's where he was on Sunday when his power went out.

"I only had one landline that worked," he said. "I had to broadcast by home phone to our IT director to get information out to our employees because I didn't have a computer."

With the approach of a hurricane, Realtor Lou Brown makes the rounds of the rental property his firm manages to check to be sure that everything is in order. He makes sure items that could be hazardous during high winds are properly stored and weak tree branches trimmed. Real estate signs usually are left in place, Brown said.

"We don't normally take the signs down, but we do have to go and repair them afterwards," he said.

Brown, who lives with his wife, Renee, and Shar-Pei mix, Wrinkles, said he has chosen to remain in his home during recent storms. He and his wife stock up on canned goods, water and healthful snacks such as granola bars.

"I like peanut butter and jelly," he said.

Ray Arsenault, historian and University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor, said:

"We didn't do very much this time. We live pretty high up, in Allendale. We are not in an evacuation zone.

"We took our plants and put them in the garage office. We took down things that might blow. We already had water and batteries from previous storms."

However, Arsenault still was without power Tuesday morning. "Our whole block has been without it for three days."

So Arsenault has spent a lot of that time in his office or at Tropicana Field watching the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Both places are air conditioned.

Darryl Rouson is president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP. "I'm embarrassed to say that this time we decided not to do much. We made sure our supplies were intact if we lost electricity," he said.

Rouson said he was without power for 22 hours. He is living in a townhouse while building a home on 31st Street S.

"We went by there and made sure everything was secure." Both his rental home and the one under construction survived.

At Eckerd College, "the president's house is on Maximo Channel. Last year after some study, we developed hurricane shutters. Some are bolted on and some are electronic," Eckerd College president Don Eastman said.

He had them taken down after Ivan and then put up again Saturday. He said it takes several people to bolt the aluminum ones on.

"We had a tub full of water, flashlights, candles and food. We stayed right there."

Much of Eastman's weekend was spent monitoring the storm to determine whether the decision not to evacuate the campus was the correct one. Students and staff evacuated for Charley, Frances and Ivan because the campus is so close to Tampa Bay. Without any trouble from Jeanne, classes resumed at 8 a.m. Monday.

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