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Alberto lands in FL

Alberto made landfall in Florida near Adams Beach, south of Tallahassee, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts to northern Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | June 13, 2006

"Don't anticipate helping immediately following a disaster."

—Alex Amparo

Alberto made landfall in Florida near Adams Beach, south of Tallahassee, bringing heavy rain and wind gusts to northern Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

At least 21,000 people were without power, and minor damage was reported from Tampa Bay to the Panhandle, including street flooding and downed tree limbs.

Parts of Florida and southeastern Georgia could get 4 to 10 inches of rain.

Hurricane warnings were downgraded to tropical storm warnings by midmorning after the stormís sustained winds dropped to 50 mph.

Parts of eastern South Carolina - where more than five inches of rain could fall - were under a flood watch.

More than 20,000 people along Florida's Gulf Coast were told to evacuate as the storm edged toward the state.

Evacuation orders were posted for people in mobile homes or low-lying areas in five coastal counties but most of the evacuations centered around Citrus, Levy and Taylor counties. Statwide, 26 shelters in 16 counties opened for evacuees.

Regardless of Alberto's strength, the state was told to prepare for a nine-foot storm surge.

"We're looking at a storm that's bringing a significant rainfall," said Alex Amparo, director of emergency management for Volunteer Florida.

Amparo was in close communication with faith-based and voluntary agencies working to ensure people are prepared for the storm.

Amparo and others urged people to obey evacuation orders. "We've all seen what storm surge does along the Mississippi coast and along Louisiana. Though these numbers do not compare to that, it's still a significant surge that western Florida will be receiving."

At this point, Amparo simply hopes people are prepared. "I certainly hope that Floridans have their disaster plan in place - and not just a plan of evacuation but their supplies for themselves or families. Anyone who needs medications should have those on hand."

And part of being prepared is being aware of what your neighbor might need, he added.

If you want to volunteer, sit tight and stay tuned, he said. "Don't anticipate helping immediately following a disaster. Don't anticipate helping within hours post-disaster. Don't put yourself in jeopardy by going out too soon. Make sure conditions are safe to go in."

There will be plenty of opportunities for volunteers after some time goes by, he said - just look at recovery from 2004 and 2005 hurricanes in Florida for an illustration.

Faith-based and voluntary agencies have been working on a day-to-day basis to help people recovery from past storms.

"From 2004 - when we had four hurricanes in 44 days in the summertime - we knew that recovery was going to take years," said Amparo. "We're now two years out and we still have families that are in need and trying to rebuild their houses and their lives."

Alberto won't stop long-term recovery from past hurricanes, he said. "Our state will be going though this rebuilding process for years to come. I think it's very important to realize that, especially now that the eyes of the world are tuned into Florida for the first storm of the season."

Rain is good news, at least from the perspective of firefighters who have been battling wildfires for six weeks on Florida's Atlantic coast. Large stretches of Florida, from Fort Lauderdale to the Panhandle, are 50 percent below normal rainfall, according to reports from the National Weather Service.

Alberto drenched Cuba's Pinar del Rio province and Havana throughout the weekend, but caused only minor street flooding, according to government reports.

Scientists have predicted the 2006 season could produce as many as 16 named storms, six of them major hurricanes.

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Atlantic storm morphs into Javier

Florida prepares for TS Colin

More hurricanes predicted in '16

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