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Panhandle Battens Down for Georges

September 26, 1998

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Men armed with cordless power drills and boxes of screws and bolts marched down a beachfront street Saturday to help neighbors board up for the threat of Hurricane Georges.

A hurricane warning was in effect from Morgan City, La., to Panama City, Fla., including the Florida Panhandle, and residents of much of that stretch had been ordered or urged to evacuate. Already blamed for more than 300 deaths in the Caribbean, Georges was on course to hit land late Sunday in Louisiana.

But residents of this barrier island community still had hurricanes Erin and Opal fresh in their minds from three years ago and were not letting their guard down.

``You never know what it will do,″ said heavy equipment operator Stan Potts, 39, a member of the boarding-up party. ``It could stop, make a right turn, and then we’re back in it. You never know ’til they come on ashore.″

Opal initially was predicted to make landfall well west of the Panhandle, but its eye hit shore several miles east of Pensacola near Navarre Beach.

Even if Georges stays to the west, the Panhandle could still suffer because the eastern side of hurricanes hold the most wind and water.

Evacuation orders had gone out Friday for upwards of 183,000 Panhandle residents of barrier islands, low-lying areas and mobile homes.

Tourists checked out of hotels and Pensacola Beach residents who had not yet evacuated Saturday were boarding up, packing and watching weather reports.

``Now, I’m ready for it to get over with. I don’t like waiting.″ said Pensacola Beach resident Mike Bredesen, 46, who owns a boat repair business. ``I’m not leaving until it actually starts to get bad.″

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