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Residents Aren’t Paying Much Heed to Bertha _ At Least Not Yet

July 10, 1996

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) _ As many coastal residents worried about Hurricane Bertha, lifeguard Jeff Cauley had other thoughts on his mind _ high waves can mean great surfing.

``If it’s not good ... I’ll go ahead and work,″ Cauley said of the surf, as people frolicked in gentle waves or soaked up sun on the hot, white sand of Wrightsville Beach. ``But if it is, I’ll take it off.″

The ``don’t worry″ approach prevailed for some along the Southeast’s coast as Bertha hit the Bahamas, 60 miles to 250 miles east of south Florida. But storm jitters sent others to stores to buy batteries, tape, plywood and other supplies that may be needed if Bertha heads their way.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch for parts of the East Coast south of Virginia today, and a tropical storm warning for Florida. The agency warned of heavy surf for the southeast U.S. coast over the next day or two as the storm edged nearer to the Florida shore.

There was about a 25 percent chance that the hurricane would hit the Southeast, forecasters said.

``Most people are going to see high waves, high surf along the coast, and that’s almost regardless of whether it comes closer to the coast or not,″ said Deputy National Hurricane Director Jerry Jarrell.

But while forecasters and emergency officials kept watch, Bertha wasn’t disturbing some tourists.

``We have a lot of visitors who don’t understand the full wrath and fury of a hurricane,″ said Joe Farmer, a spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Preparedness Division in Columbia, S.C.

At Wrightsville Marina, worker Scott Toomer said a few boat owners have called with concerns, ``but people aren’t crazed yet. It’s too early for that.″

Geoffrey Newton lived in Santa Cruz, Calif., when a huge earthquake rocked that state in 1989. ``At least you get a warning with this,″ Newton, who now lives in Wilmington, said while sunning on the beach.

But then again, not everyone was even aware of the warning.

``I haven’t heard a thing about Bertha,″ said Bruce Osborne of Richmond, Va., who was spending a week in an oceanfront cottage at Emerald Isle. ``Should we be concerned?″

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