"We want our citizens to remain watchful and aware as the storm could deviate from the projected cone into South Georgia," said Mike Flippo, local EMA director. "We could experience hurricane force winds. Don't let your guard down."

Flippo encouraged people to fill the gas tanks in their vehicles and visit banks and ATM's for extra cash ahead of time, because once or if the electricity goes out, the two become more difficult to come by.

Representative of the local EMA, law enforcement agencies, the American Red Cross, health department, fire protection, recreation department, animal control and other agencies met Friday to participate in a conference call with Atlanta EMA officials to ask questions and prepare for whatever the storm brings to the area. They'll meet again at 2 p.m. today for another conference call to stay up-to-date on Dennis' path.

"We'll know better then the path of the hurricane," said David Haire, EMA spokesman.

Local Red Cross Director Dan Eidson said the 24 shelters in the county are ready to be opened if necessary. Each shelter has a nurse on hand and trained shelter operators.

As of late Friday afternoon, the RC had contacted shelter operators at First Baptist Church of Ty Ty and First Baptist, Northside Baptist, First United Methodist and Our Divine Savior Catholic churches in Tifton to be ready. These shelters will be the first to open if the EMA instructs the RC to open them, Eidson said.

According to Eidson, a normal traffic count from Florida into Tifton is an average of 2,300 per hour. That number, as of Friday, had increased by 300 vehicles to 2,850 per hour, Eidson said.

"The best thing people can do is not panic and to keep their radio and television on," Eidson said.

Eidson said officials will be updating WALB-TV in Albany and local radio station WTIF with information and E-911 will always be abreast of latest developments in the weather. Internet users may log on to www3.dot.state.fl.us/TRAFFICINFORMATION/ to get the latest traffic flow counts.

Also, two other local Web sites will post the latest information. Those are www.tiftco.org (then go to the departments and to EMA) and www.tifton.net.

The Tift County EMA website has available a list of items recommended for Family Disaster Supply Kits, which include food, water and first aid supplies.

Eidson said residents in Mobile, Ala., were instructed Friday to evacuate. Also, military officials at Pensacola Naval Air Station evacuated the base, busing over 2,000 service members to the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.

As of presstime Friday, Hurricane Dennis was expected to arrive in the Florida panhandle Sunday.

To contact city editor Angie Thompson, call 382-4321.

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