Forecasters: Floridians should prepare for hurricane

8/16/2008 KEY WEST, Fla. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency to help protect communities from the storm, which "threatens the state of Florida with a major disaster," he wrote in an executive order.

Fay had the potential to hit Florida as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, with winds reaching more than 100 mph, National Hurricane Center forecasters said. But they stressed it was too early to tell exactly how intense the storm would become or where it would make landfall.

Flooding from Fay killed two people and left two children missing in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, authorities said Saturday. Forecasters said the storm could reach hurricane strength when it approaches central Cuba on Sunday, and the government there issued a hurricane watch for several provinces.

At 5 p.m. EDT, the storm's center was about 60 miles south of Guantanamo, Cuba, and moving west at 16 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. To become a hurricane, sustained winds must be at least 74 mph.

On Saturday afternoon, forecasters were predicting that the sixth named storm of the 2008 season would make landfall somewhere along western coast of Florida on Tuesday as a hurricane, said Corey Walton, a hurricane support meteorologist.

Florida officials in Tallahassee opened their emergency operations center, said Blair Heusdens, a spokeswoman for the state's Division of Emergency Management.

"We like to have the executive order in place before the storm," Heusdens said. "That way we can have our resources ready."

The city of Key West planned to open its emergency operation center Saturday. Monroe County officials said visitors may be forced to evacuate Sunday morning.

Tourists and locals still packed downtown Key West Saturday, seemingly unfazed by the approaching storm.

Todd Hitchins, 36, of Big Pine Key, about 30 miles east of Key West, said he planned to stock up on water and propane for his grill but wasn't too worried.

"This will be good practice," mused Hitchins, who said he's lived here during much more powerful storms. "But you've got to be prepared, be ready."

Jeff Emmett, operations manager at Fairfield Inn and Suites in Key West, said Saturday afternoon the hotel had no cancellations or early check-outs.

"Business as usual," Emmett said. "Right now, we're just keeping the guests informed."

Chris Celestina, 24, was sitting at the hotel's poolside bar on Saturday, where he's vacationing with four friends from Pennsylvania.

"We're not really worried," Celestina said as he ordered a drink. "Whatever happens, happens. If we get evacuated, that will definitely put a damper on our plans, but until we have to, we're not moving."

Some Keys residents were preparing for the aftermath. Andrew Cardwell, 26, filled up nine 5-gallon gas cans for his employer, Pirate Scooter Rentals, early Saturday afternoon.

"As soon as the storm passes through, people are going to want to rent mopeds," Cardwell said. "We're just getting it while we can."


abc30 News Links:
Links to other news sections on our website.


Breaking News Alerts:
Click Here to Sign-Up for Breaking News E-Mail Alerts
Receive Breaking News alerts in your email inbox.

Click Here to Sign-Up for Text Message Alerts
Receive Breaking News alerts right on your cell phone.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.