One thing certain about hurricane season: Be prepared

``It's the kind of damage that occurs slowly from a lot of water,'' he said. ``Casualties were high. The middle of the state is flat. There's nowhere for all that water to go. It doesn't just run off.''

And, Jerrold said, Alberto was right on the edge of becoming a hurricane.

``We put up hurricane warnings because we really thought it would become a hurricane,'' he said. ``It came within 5 mph of becoming a hurricane.''

But Craig Fugate, Alachua County's emergency manager, said Alachua County is unique when it comes to the flooding problem. Rather than having flooding like that seen in the Panhandle after Alberto and Beryl, Alachua County -- unlike much of the region -- would have a lot of standing water, but generally not the amount that would drown people.

``That kind of flooding comes from rivers,'' he said. ``The Santa Fe River skirts the northern part of the county, and there are some homes along the river that face that kind of danger. But our biggest problem will be the foot of standing water that gets into low-lying homes, creating a nuisance and doing some property damage. Flood insurance should take care of much of that.''


"We haven't done a good enough job warning inland people in Florida. The theory people have is, `If I'm not on the coast, I'm OK.' That's wrong."

The bigger problem from the standing water would be health.

``We'll have a great mosquito problem,'' Fugate said. ``I can see us getting some sort of federal aid to deal with a mosquito outbreak.''

But flooding is only part of the problem if a storm heads this way. Should a hurricane make landfall between Hillsborough and Taylor counties on the Gulf side of the state or between Jacksonville and Titusville on the Atlantic side, Gainesville is in for a hard ride, Jerrold said.

``We usually consider any area within 50 miles of the the coastline an area that could receive maximum damage,'' he said.

The only thing that Gainesville wouldn't see is a storm surge -- the big wave that hits the coast when a storm makes landfall. But the wind and the rain would be no different in Gainesville, St. Augustine or Cedar Key.

Joe Myers, the state's director of emergency management, agrees.

"Your problem inland is going to be flooding and high winds,'' he said. ``If you're looking at a Category 4 hurricane coming through Cedar Key, you have 100- to 110-mph winds in Gainesville. If you have a Category 4 storm travel up the East Coast, you have 110-mph winds in Gainesville.''

Category 4 hurricanes -- like Andrew -- carry winds of between 131 and 155 mph.

"In Gainesville, you'll get the high winds whether the storm comes from the east or west,'' Myers said.

Again, Fugate believes wind would make a unique problem here -- this time for all of North Central Florida, not just Gainesville. A Category 4 hurricane would knock down most of the trees in the area, making transportation a nightmare. With roads closed due to fallen trees, rescue workers would have a hard time getting anywhere. That's why Fugate has advised that during the first 48 to 72 hours after a hurricane, your best source of emergency aid will be yourself.


"We still fear the big bottleneck,'' he said. "We're worried that those that should leave won't, and those that shouldn't leave will. We're ready to make Florida's Turnpike a one-way road. It's not the ideal solution, but it will work.''

That's why the Alachua County chapter of the American Red Cross is advising people to become familiar with first-aid needs.

"People need that training,'' said Michelle Rybka, the local Red Cross operations manager. "It's not to take care of strangers, but for families, friends and co-workers. Immediately after Hurricane Andrew, most of the people who were providing medical help were doing it to their own families.''

Myers learned his lesson about inland problems as the emergency manager for North Carolina. He was there when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, S.C. There were 100-mph winds in Charlotte, N.C. -- 200 miles inland -- and millions of people were out of power.

"We haven't done a good enough job warning inland people in Florida,'' Myers said. "The theory people have is, `If I'm not on the coast, I'm OK.' That's wrong.

"If you have a storm making landfall in Melbourne and you issue a warning, then you issue a watch in Tampa for when it goes into the Gulf, what about Haines City? You have to have high winds. The storm just doesn't suddenly appear on the other side of the state.''

In fact, for Myers, one of his two biggest headaches coming into this year's hurricane season is inland Florida. As last year's hurricane season approached, Myers' biggest fear was what would happen to the state's infrastructure if massive numbers of people evacuated.

"We still fear the big bottleneck,'' he said. "We're worried that those that should leave won't, and those that shouldn't leave will. We're ready to make Florida's Turnpike a one-way road. It's not the ideal solution, but it will work.''

Complacency by inland Floridians has added to his worries.

"We certainly need a lot more public education on that,'' he said, referring to dealing with inland issues.

But again, according to Fugate, Alachua County may be in a unique situation regarding education. According to a recent telephone survey done for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, about 62 percent of mobile-home residents in Alachua County know that in a serious emergency -- such as a Category 3 hurricane -- the only good option for them is to seek emergency shelter. If ordered to evacuate, less than 2 percent would stay.

In the same survey, less than 10 percent of the people said that with a hurricane approaching, their mobile home will be safe.

"In surrounding counties, the numbers were not as good,'' Fugate said. "That's attributed to the public education that's gone on here.''

Jerrold says that if you're in a low-lying area or a mobile home, the only sensible thing to do is get out. But people in secure homes don't need to do that and have a relatively simple solution for protecting themselves inland: storm shutters.

"If you're inland, you have a better chance of surviving if you don't evacuate,'' he said. "The last thing you want is to get stuck in traffic in a hurricane. In a home, your chances of surviving are tremendous. If your house is built right, you can survive the wind in your house unless water is going to overrun it.''

And even if your house is destroyed, you have a better chance of surviving than if you're in your car when the storm hits.

Jerrold cites Andrew statistics to make his point. About 30,000 homes were destroyed in Hurricane Andrew. He estimates that 100,000 people lived in those homes, and only seven people died. But taping windows will not make your house safe, he said. Instead, it simply will make bigger pieces of glass when your windows break.

"In Gainesville, you can eliminate at least half the potential damage by putting up shutters,'' he said. Shutters will save houses. If you can save your windows and doors, you can likely save your house.''

In Andrew, most of the roofs that were lost came as a result of the integrity of the house first being weakened by breaking windows.