Crist to Floridians: Watch Hanna closely and stay out of the water

Sep 3, 2008

Palm Beach Post--September 02, 2008

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — State officials are dealing with an alphabet soup of storm systems as effects of Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav continue to trouble regions of Florida even as three potential other threats loom in the Atlantic.

“At this time we await Hanna and maybe Ike and maybe Josephine. Obviously we’ve got a lot to deal with. Floridians are dealing it with it very, very well,” Gov. Charlie Crist said at an 11 a.m. press briefing this morning, pointing to a map showing the storms’ locales. “But this gives you an indication of what the near future holds for us as well. So we’ve got to stay tuned.”

Crist issued an emergency declaration for the state this morning for Tropical Storm Hanna to free up resources to prepare for the storm here and in neighboring states.

Nearly 1,000 evacuees from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are being sheltered throughout the Panhandle into the Big Bend area and officials are asking them to stay put until damage assessments have been completed.

The governor is also likely to stay put and forgo a scheduled speech at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota on Thursday, when Hanna is expected to make landfall somewhere along the East Coast.

“We’ve got a lot coming at us. I think it’s important to be here. I understand why people are up there and I appreciate that. Electing the next president’s an important mission but protecting Florida’s mission one for me,” Crist said.

What is left of Gustav, no longer a hurricane, continues to dump heavy rain and threaten blustery winds in the Florida Panhandle, is exacerbating already flooded rivers in Central Florida and causing sheet flooding in southern Lee County, state meteorologist Ben Nelson said.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Hanna is a potential threat to the entire peninsula, especially the east coast from the Keys north past the Florida border. Hanna is forecasted to become a Category 2-strength hurricane before making landfall later this week.

Crist delivered a stern warning to residents and visitors to forgo swimming and surfing due to rip currents after reports of three drownings near Fort Lauderdale yesterday.

“Stay out of the water,” Crist advised.

Floridians and visitors should not try to emulate reporters and meteorologists braving the weather, which sends a “mixed message” to viewers, warned Emergency Management Services Director Craig Fugate.

“We’ve seen a lot of TV coverage the last couple of days. People are maybe starting to get a little tired of seeing about the storms,” Fugate said.

“Many of the things we are seeing as far as TV coverage may be sending again what we call a mixed message. You see reporters out there in the storm. You see them out there driving out there in the storm. We want to remind people that that’s what the journalists are trying to do to get the story. But that’s not what we want people to do to be safe. You need to stay inside … Just because the TV meteorologists and the journalists are out there, don’t mistake that for meaning that it’s not dangerous. We cannot emphasize that strongly enough.”

While residents prepare for the potential storms, Crist asked that they consider volunteering their time or money to relief organizations.

“With several storms now looming in the Atlantic. I urge citizens to help in any way that they can – their time, with a financial gift, or both.

Recovering from disasters like Fay and Gustav takes the cooperation of all citizens,” Crist said.

Those interested in donating to the Florida Disaster Recovery Fund can call (800) 825-3786 or visit

Floridians should be on the alert for Hanna for the rest of the week, officials advised.

“What do you need to do now? Simply just monitor the storm. Be ready. Be vigilant.

We’ve faced these storms before,” Fugate said.