Response groups prepare for Hurricane Dennis

BY GEORGE PIPER | Grand Bahamas | August 26, 1999

The storm stalled Saturday near the Abaco islands in the northern Bahamas before moving northwest

toward the U.S. mainland. Initial reports say Dennis blew down trees, toppled utility poles and destroyed

buildings under construction.

Slow-moving but powerful, Dennis' current track looks to give Georgia and Florida only rains bands and

high tides. The Carolinas are expected to get the brunt of the storm, but Saturday night weather

forecasters were looking at several predictions that suggest the hurricane will skirt the coast for several

days before moving out into the Atlantic.

In the meantime a hurricane watch is still posted for Sebastian Inlet to Fernandina Beach, Florida, while

tropical storm warnings extend from the Sebastian Inlet northward to Flagler Beach. At 8 p.m. EDT,

Dennis' sustained wind was at 105 mph and the storm's center lay 180 miles east-southeast of Cape

Canaveral, Fla. Those warnings may be shifted northward as Dennis moves in that direction.

United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has several personnel on standby, including a

catastrophe team, said Gordon Knuckey, a disaster specialist with the organization. "Everybody's on alert,

and everybody's pre-positioned just to see what's going to happen," he said.

Teams from Adventist Community Services (Seventh-Day Adventists) have teams from south Florida to

Virginia ready to bring clothing, toiletries and clean-up supplies to survivors, said Larry Buckner, ASC's

disaster response coordinator. "We've got a larger area that we're looking out for and that requires more

teams and a little more planning," he said, commenting on the storm's large U.S. target area.

The only ones seemingly happy with Dennis' arrival are surfers taking advantage of high waves.

Otherwise, state emergency management officials are taking no chances.

Hospitals along the North Carolina coast are arranging additional food shipments and establishing

hurricane schedules. Residents have been making preparations since mid-week, spurred on by Hurricane

Bret's arrival in Texas and a barrage of coverage and caution from the media outlets and emergency

management programs.

Mandatory evacuations could be issued in parts South Carolina as officials watch the storm's track.

National Guard and state troopers are on alert to assist with evacuations or other emergency needs.

While the threat appears to have lessened in Georgia, county emergency management coordinators urged

residents to be ready in case Dennis takes a sudden turn westward. Residents in low-lying, flood-prone

areas also may be under voluntary evacuations depending upon the flood threat.

The situation is similar in Florida, where residents are warned to monitor Dennis and be prepared for

heavy rains and coastal storm surges. Emergency operations centers remain on standby while officials

monitor the progress of the storm.

In other storm news, Hurricane Cindy grew to Category 4 status after merging with Tropical Depression

Emily. But that storm is expected to stay over open Atlantic waters with no threat to land.

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