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Hurricane Jeanne

Flow of news quickly reaches Citrus residents

The county and local TV and radio stations use lessons learned during Frances to get out vital information.

By JORGE SANCHEZ
Published September 27, 2004

photo photo photo
Monday, Sept. 27: cleanup begins Sunday, Sept. 26: Tampa Bay photos Sunday, Sept. 26: North Suncoast

THE STORM
Enough already
Storm leaves region weary, in the dark
The effects of Jeanne graphic
Historic hurricane season graphic
FROM TAMPA BAY'S 10 NEWS

TAMPA BAY & STATE
Storm blows business into the few that stayed open
Q&A: Area can expect little wind, surge
Closings
Order to leave came late
Pinellas yet again appears to escape storm's worst
With power out, keep patience in reserve
Food spoils quickly in storm conditions
Handling damage
Insurers scurry to help again
Use common sense, caution with repairs
Third blow to Polk is the hardest
State and local officials blamed Hurricane Jeanne for six deaths

HILLSBOROUGH
Jeanne blew in a sense of deja vu

PINELLAS
Response mixed to evac orders
Roof damage forces seniors to evacuate
Service goes on despite Jeanne
Storm deals damaging hit to Clearwater Beach
Storm's near misses still felt like direct hits

PASCO
Jeanne strikes homes, fills rivers
Life after Jeanne
Snippets of drama swept in by storm

HERNANDO
Another blow to a slow recovery
Shelters fill with impatient refugees
Storm notebook

CITRUS
Defiance, discretion and demand for tacos
Citrus county information
Storm-weary slammed again
Utilities: Restoring power to take days
Flow of news quickly reaches Citrus
residents

ONLINE EXTRAS
Projected path
Message board: Write a message or leave some news on Jeanne
Interactive: Storm Watcher
Computer models
2004 hurricane guide
Tide charts
Official county evacuation and shelter maps for Tampa Bay area
National Hurricane Center
Hurricanes Explained
Interactive: Damage and Danger
Hurricane preparedness tips
Complete Hurricane Jeanne coverage

When Frances pummelled the county over the Labor Day weekend, many people complained that radio and television stations seemed to be ignoring Citrus. Power outages knocked local radio and TV outlets off the air, and the stations in Tampa and St. Petersburg seemed to have their attention focused on areas closer to their home bases.

As a result, many important Citrus news notices - issued at critical points during Frances' onslaught - went unnoticed for some time by Tampa Bay radio and television stations.

In the wake of Frances, local radio and television stations pledged to make improvements. Chief among them was to buy generators to keep their stations on the air in case the electricity went out. The county also pledged to find ways to get important information out right away.

On Sunday, as Jeanne bore down on Citrus, the communication situation seemed to improve a great deal. Local radio such as WXCV-FM 95.3 (Citrus 95) and local TV station WYKE-Ch. 49 were able to keep broadcasting. WYKE can be found as Channel 16 on cable systems.

"We've got two generators," said Tom Franklin, general manager of WYKE, the local cable access channel funded by the Key Training Center.

Although Franklin said his station hadn't lost power, the backup generators would ensure that the live updates he started Saturday and continued through Sunday would stay on the air.

WYKE used a live telephone connection to interview Sheriff Jeff Dawsy, County Commission Chairman Josh Wooten and sheriff's Capt. Joe Eckstein, all principal figures at the county's Emergency Operations Center in Lecanto, where disaster preparedness procedures are developed. Often, WYKE was able to talk with the EOC within minutes of a briefing.

When Franklin went on the air, his broadcasts were simulcast on WLMS-FM 88.3, a small religious station to which county officials referred people for local storm information.

Franklin described his show as "not a news program, but an emergency information service provided by the only local television station."

He said plans were to put a camera crew in the center to interview disaster preparedness leaders on camera, but time ran out.

"This thing (Jeanne) just caught us short," he said.

Citrus 95 simulcasted the Bay News 9 broadcasts and also aired interviews and statements from key officials, such as representatives for an electric utility and county spokeswoman Jessica Sanderson.

Access to the major Tampa Bay television stations was also improved Saturday and Sunday, according to Sanderson.

"Things were just wonderful this time around, as compared to Frances," she said. "We were able to get information on the air very quickly."

The county used a media alert system it discovered as Frances was winding down, Sanderson said. It is an e-mail server that is constantly monitored by the major television stations.

When the decision was made to cancel school today, Sanderson sent the message on the media alert system, and she said it was on television screen and newspaper Web sites within minutes.

"They know where Citrus is this time around," she said.

[Last modified September 26, 2004, 23:48:22]


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