Panhandle begins storm watch - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Panhandle begins storm watch

Dennis' projected 3-day track Dennis' projected 3-day track
The position and projected path of Dennis at 11AM Saturday. The position and projected path of Dennis at 11AM Saturday.
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July 8, 2005

Panama City Beach, Florida-- As Hurricane Dennis takes aim at the Gulf Coast, people in Panama City are getting ready, and stocking up on supplies, too.

Never before has a hurricane as strong as Dennis threatened the United States this early in the hurricane season. Combine that with memories of last year's string of devastating hurricanes, and many people on the coast are preparing for the worst.

It’s a great day to be on the beach. But that will certainly change over the next day or two. Not such a great day to be at grocery store or gas station here in Panama City.

You hear the term madhouse. I wasn't really sure what a madhouse was until I went to the Panama City Beach Home Depot.

Plywood shipments are coming in every hour, and generators are generating sales like you wouldn't believe. "This one's $719. Yeah, that'll work," says Paul Fannin. "I drove an hour to get it."

Paul drove all that way because he couldn't find a generator near his home in Freeport. "This is the only place that's got them. I went to three places over in south Walton County, and you can't find anything over there."

Paul and his family have been without power after other hurricanes. "We have so many storms, you just as well invest in it." He's investing in a $720 portable power supply so he won't be left in the dark again. 10:25 Ben-"

What did he learn last year from Ivan? "Stock up and get an early start, hang in there, because it's rough," Paul says.

Look down the aisles and it's clear to see many other Floridians know it's about to get rough. They're also getting an early start.

"Not sure exactly where the storm is going to go right now, and protecting the home, a lot of people are doing it a little earlier this year." said  Home Depot manager Tracy Moss.

This new Home Depot opened last year right before hurricane Ivan. But the manager says she's never seen it busier than it is today, with folks looking for plywood and generators and more. "We do have tarps, batteries, gas cans."

Paul got a couple of those gas cans and some batteries and a second generator for a buddy who couldn't make it to the store. "It's a ten horsepower."

He's already got other supplies, and hopes that will be enough to keep his family safe at home. "Get a generator and sardines, and just hunker down," says Paul.

Paul has lived here on the gulf coast for 45-years. In all that time, he left for only one hurricane; that was Opal ten years ago.

And here's a scary thought. Opal remains one of the five costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, causing $3 billion in damage.

Right now, Dennis is stronger than Opal was when she slammed ashore right on these beaches. 

We often hear stories of price gouging during hurricanes, but we have not seen that. Some people told us they saw men selling generators on the side of a road for twice what they cost at the Home Depot.

One woman told me as she was waiting in line to fill up her gas tank, and the price went up ten cents a gallon.

 there is a voluntary evacuation for visitors and residents in Gulf County, Florida. A mandatory evacuation will be placed on all non-residents north of the Stump Hole area on Cape San Blas beginning at 6:00 Saturday morning.

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