9/10/04

CEDAR KEY--On the only road into Cedar Key Friday evening there was a hand-lettered sign announcing 24 hour prayer services anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Ivan.

Jutting out far into the Gulf of Mexico, and having many old, wooden structures, the island is especially vulnerable. The sleepy community of about 1000 people is used to dealing with seasonal hurricanes, but most local residents and business owners are especially worried about the dangerous category four storm that has already ravaged the Caribbean.

Hurricane Ivan, according to early forecasts Friday from the National Hurricane Center, is on a direct path towards Cedar Key. Adding to the anxiety is the fact that Ivan is the fourth major storm in the last month to threaten this area, preceded by Tropical Storm Bonnie, a near miss by Hurricane Charley, and an indirect hit by Tropical Storm Frances less than a week ago.

Ron Rodriguez, a former police chief now managing the Chowder Shack, a local restaurant, was worried. He said even the “old local fishermen” in the area, who usually shrug the storms off and ride them out, are saying that this could be the biggest storm to hit in thirty years. He said that “everyone is getting out”. He added that he also is planning to evacuate early, but is unsure where he might go.

“I called all over looking for a motel room, and there’s nothing anywhere between here and the north end of Georgia,” he said Friday.

Sherry Liebert, a local business owner, is also planning to evacuate if necessary, but said she’s waiting until Sunday to decide whether she will leave. Working behind the desk at a local inn, she said she has taken up residence here, in one of the suites normally rented out to tourists, because her home has been without power for a week. The inn is built out on the Gulf waters high on wooden stilts.

“We have rooms with beautiful ocean views, when they’re not boarded up,” she said. “We had the boards up for Frances, and were just going to leave them on until we know what’s going to happen.”

She said she knows where she will go if a direct hit looks inevitable.

“Kansas,” she said.

At least one resident remained unconcerned, however. Douglas McJordan, owner of the Sawgrass art gallery and motel, waved off the threat.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said. “It’s going to miss us like they all do. I’m not even watching the weather reports anymore.”

He said that even if it does come ashore here, he’s ready with plywood just taken down from Frances’ visit. He also added that he is well insured.

“It should either not hit or take everything,” he said. “I’ve got great coverage.”

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