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Gabrielle's punch sideswipes Citrus

The storm, once predicted to hit the area, moves south and east, causing just some power outages and downing tree limbs.

[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
Donald Reitzel of Inverness didn't allow heavy rain and gusty winds from Gabrielle to stop him from making his morning walk along Main Street in Inverness to the Kash n' Karry supermarket Friday.

By CARRIE JOHNSON

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 15, 2001


Click for current conditions and forecast
  • Power is lost as trees topple
  • Gabrielle pelts rain, belts utility lines
  • Most of Friday's rain will miss aquifer
  • Storm is more bluster than rage
  • Gabrielle's punch sideswipes Citrus
  • Storm brings rain, outages
  • Gabrielle puts dent in drought
  • Storm rushes through county
  • Gusting winds downed power lines and sent tree limbs flying, but by the end of the day, it appeared Citrus County had been spared the worst of Tropical Storm Gabrielle.

    "We were very, very lucky," said Judy Tear, emergency management planner.

    Power outages were the storm's most immediate effect. By 5 p.m., 240 Crystal River residents had lost electricity at some point during the day, according to Mac Harris, a spokesman for Florida Power.

    Inverness had 2,600 outages and Dunnellon experienced 1,750, he said.

    Utility crews had been dispatched throughout the county by Friday afternoon and most residents were expected to have power restored by this morning, Harris added.

    While the county remains under a flood watch through today, there were no reports of significant flooding, Tear said.

    Rainfall figures for Friday were unavailable by press time, but Tear said about 5 inches was predicted.

    That follows what was considered a good soaking on Thursday: Floral City received more than an inch of rain, according to figures kept by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Both Inverness and Hernando received about an inch.

    The combination of driving rain and high winds Friday toppled trees throughout the county. Firefighters and deputies from the Citrus County Sheriff's Office worked throughout the afternoon with chain saws clearing trees from roadways and removing wet limbs.

    "We've been so dry for so long, and now we're so wet," said Tear. "You add a little wind and the trees fall right over because their roots are so shallow."

    Wet roads also caused car wrecks throughout the day. A total number of accidents was not available Friday afternoon.

    Once predicted to hit land near Citrus, Gabrielle took a more southerly course after spending most of Thursday gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Naples.

    The storm was predicted to weaken today, but there is still a chance of isolated showers or thunderstorms as bands of rain from the storm continue to pass through the area, according to the National Weather Service.

    By 5 p.m., Gabrielle's center had moved near Orlando and was expected to move out of West Central Florida by early evening.

    The county had been prepared for a major storm, Tear said. The Sheriff's Office taped a television program to tell residents what to do in case of severe weather and was scheduled to air it Friday evening at 7.

    County officials also contacted several churches to serve as emergency shelters, and had spoken with representatives from the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.

    "But it looks like the winds are going to die down and the worst is really behind us," Tear said.

    But before it left, Gabrielle left its mark on the Citrus County Courthouse, where the heavy rainfall led to the flooding of a catacomb in the building's basement.

    "So nice of Mother Nature to build us an indoor swimming pool," said Kathy Ingall, a courthouse custodian.

    The basement, which includes the law library and several rooms of files, was closed Friday afternoon and janitors sucked up the water with a vacuum.

    Citrus County had been prepared for a major storm, said Judy Tear, emergency management planner. The Sheriff's Office taped a television program to tell residents what to do in case of severe weather and was scheduled to air it Friday evening.

    "We did that just for precautionary reasons, so we wouldn't have a lot of people going back and forth so they won't get hurt," Ingall said.

    No documents or files were damaged in the flood. Ingall said the water was about 2 inches deep in the catacomb, which is used for storage of cleaning equipment.

    But cleaning it up didn't make for a very pleasant afternoon, said Ingall, whose jeans were soaked to the shins from sloshing around in the rainwater. "It feels like I'll never get dry," she said.

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