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Another hurricane eyes state

It’s becoming an all-too-familiar story for Butler County. Yet another hurricane is building up steam and threatening to cause more havoc for the Gulf Coast region.

While earlier reports indicated Hurricane Katrina was headed more to the east, as of 4 p.m. Central Time Friday, the situation for Alabama was "looking worse," Butler County EMA Director Bob Luman said.

"Right now we are in a 'wait and see' mode, but I would suggest everybody get their supplies together and get ready. It's looking like it might follow about the same track of Ivan," Luman said.

According to the National Weather Service, Katrina is expected to reach major hurricane strength (Category 3-4) by Saturday into Sunday, making it "a very dangerous storm."

As of Friday afternoon, the storm had already reached Category 2 force with winds of 100 mph. The hurricane made landfall south of Fort Lauderdale Thursday night with widespread power outages and tree damage reported. Some 8-20 inches of rain fell across portions of southern Florida.

And forecasters say it's only expected to get stronger.

"We were originally expecting only tropical force winds here, but now it looks like this may be a Category 2 storm by the time it gets to us. It's moving more slowly, too," Luman said.

While the storm was originally forecast to hit our area Monday morning, Luman says it now appears it will be 3 to 4 p.m. on Monday before we feel the full force of Katrina.

What advice would the EMA director give to local citizens?

"Pay attention to those weather forecasts," he stressed.

"Keep listening to the news and be aware what is going on. And do stock up on the batteries, bottled water and other needs, just in case," Luman added.

A special meeting of city and county officials has been called at the courthouse annex for 4 p.m. on Saturday to make further emergency plans.

As of Friday, Luman was not sure which emergency shelters would be open.

"It does look like we will have the special needs shelter open at Greenville High School - if we can get that big generator. Like I said, this is really a 'wait and see' situation," Luman said.

In the meantime, the EMA director suggests citizens of Butler County batten down the hatches and get ready - just in case.

"Keep watching and listening to the forecasts and try to be prepared for whatever happens," Luman said.