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Ernesto's shifts spark anxiety

In a turnabout, Florida was preparing for a Category 1 hurricane on its east coast, 24 hours after being warned to prepare for a Category 2 hurricane on its west coast.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | August 28, 2006

In a turnabout, Florida was preparing for a Category 1 hurricane on its east coast, 24 hours after being warned to prepare for a Category 2 hurricane on its west coast.

Tropical Storm Ernesto continues to have people closely monitoring an erratic track that has made people, especially in Florida, anxious for days.

The good news: by Monday, it looked like South Florida might possibly be spared a direct hit from Tropical Storm Ernesto. The track forecast shifted east on Monday afternoon - but state officials cautioned it could shift again.

"The conditions are changing and that's even more reason why we're not focusing on that skinny black line of where the eye passes," said a Florida state emergency management official.

Responders across the board were saying Ernesto won't be another Hurricane Wilma, which damaged parts of southern Florida during October in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

"We are gearing up for a possible Category 1 hurricane now," he said. "It's not a Hurricane Wilma but nonetheless it could be a hurricane. And a hurricane is a hurricane."

Responders in the state were warning people not to take the storm lightly.

Already, Ernesto has left a psychological wake in Florida, especially for people hit by Hurricane Wilma and by Hurricane Katrina, which brushed Florida before it devastated Mississippi and Louisiana last year. Dozens of people still need roof repair in the wake of Wilma.

Faith-based responders reported they were seeing long lines at gas pumps, flaring tempers and highly stressed people. "The elderly population is scared," said one responder. "We have an increase in calls from people getting stressed out."

Ernesto hit Cuba on Monday after killing one person in Haiti. The storm became the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season's first hurricane on Sunday morning before weakening.


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