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Storm watchers warn residents: Get ready

Although the path the storm will take remains unknown, the area is likely to see very heavy rain and remains under a flood watch.

Click for current conditions and forecast
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    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published September 14, 2001

    As Tropical Storm Gabrielle hovered in the Gulf of Mexico gathering steam Thursday, Hernando County officials braced for landfall.

    The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for the Tampa Bay region early Thursday evening, with a hurricane watch posted for Tarpon Springs south to the Florida Keys.

    Forecaster David Rittenberry said the storm's path was next to impossible to predict.

    "We've changed our mind every six hours for the last two days," he said. "We could change our minds twice before tomorrow."

    Rittenberry said heavy rainfall is anticipated in Hernando County, even if the storm does not make landfall here.

    The area remained under a flood watch Thursday, and heavy winds were expected to keep a small-craft advisory in effect at least through today.

    There were few signs of people making storm preparations Thursday along the Hernando coast. Store managers said they had stocked up for a storm but that there had been little demand so far.

    County emergency management officials made plans Thursday to staff the emergency operations center at the Sheriff's Office, with employees on hand to answer questions from residents. The phone number is 754-4083.

    Program coordinator Annette Doying urged residents to watch the Weather Channel for up-to-date information and to have disaster plans in place.

    "This is anticipated to be a heavy rainfall event," she said. "People living in low-lying areas should secure valuables."

    - Staff writer Jennifer Farrell covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to

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