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Dennis Sparks Coastal Preparations

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Residents at Wrightsville Beach and Kure Beach were busy stocking up on supplies at the grocery and hardware stores Saturday, but they are not panicking.

The people here are hurricane veterans that know better than to be caught unprepared and unready.

Beverly Wright was back at the grocery after fighting a losing battle against crowds Friday.

A ten-year Wilmington resident, she knows to stock up for hurricanes early.

"Essentially, I think that those of us who have been here a good while don't get in a panick, and we keep something in the garage or somewhere all the time," says Wright. "But you still gotta get your last minute stuff."

At the grocery stores, batteries and water are the most popular items. Across town at Lowes, the must-have items are plywood to board up windows, flashlights and generators.

"People have been carrying out hundreds of sheets of plywood, stocking up on batteries and flashlights, cookers, propane fuel and so forth," says Lowes manager Lee McConnell. "People are taking this storm quite seriously."

Tom Rushton and his family stocked up on supplies. Now all they can do is wait.

"We'll board up the windows and doors," says Rushton. "The kids, maybe, will go stay with some relatives, and we'll just ride it out."

New Hanover County residents say they have been through hurricane destruction too many times before -- with Hurricanes Bertha, Fran and Bonnie. They are taking the threat of Dennis very seriously.

"We're hoping it misses us all together," says Kure Beach Mayor Betty Medlin, "but if it has to come in, we're hoping it's very light, and won't do the damage that Fran did."

All eyes were on Dennis' project at the New Hanover County Joint Information Center in Wilmington.

Before, during and after a storm, residents can contact the center for the latest information on everything, from school closings to evacuations.

"The problem with this storm is that it's just dragging right now," says Mark Boyers, spokesman for the center. "And that's making a lot of decision making a little more difficult, because we don't know how long it's going to just drift out there."

At Bell South in Wilmington, hundreds of batteries are charged and ready to handle phone service if Dennis knocks out power. And if the batteries fail, a huge generator kicks in and does the job for them.

"Reliable telecommunications are always critical, but especially so during times of natural disasters like hurricanes, of course," says Bell South Director Billy King.

Emergency managers plan to meet Sunday to talk about school closings for the coming week and possible evacuations in New Hanover County, beginning with the beaches -- Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach and Carolina Beach.

Computer models have now pushed back a possible hit to the Carolinas to Tuesday. Forecasters worry rip currents along the coast could prove dangerous this weekend.

Right now, people are watching the waves and waiting to see just where Hurricane Dennis goes next.

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Lynn French, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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