PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Their house is in a flood-prone area and Hurricane Charley (search) tore off more than half the roof's shingles, but Bob West and family plan to stay put and ride out Frances (search).
Just three weeks after Charley slammed into southwest Florida, damaged homes such as West's, clogged stormwater drains, rain-swollen waterways and mangled emergency shelters are complicating preparations for the approaching storm.
The storm was expected to give the region only a glancing, but very wet, blow. Even that, however, may be too much for homes already hit hard by Charley in Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties.
"The temporary roofing may not withstand 12 hours of Frances' winds," said DeSoto emergency operations spokeswoman Mandy Hines.
Officials also are worried that Frances' winds will pick up pieces of debris left from Charley and cause more damage or injuries.
West, a 56-year-old computer programmer, said he was confident that wooden strips and extra nails and clamps would secure the blue plastic sheeting on his roof. He and his wife and their two sons were busy Friday staking down tarps over debris piles and elevating furniture inside the house in case of flooding.
"We also just have the attitude of 'We're sticking,"' he said.
Officials have urged Charley victims living in damaged homes, low-lying areas and mobile homes to evacuate although they may have to go to neighboring counties to find shelters or bring their own food, bedding and other supplies.
In Charlotte County, which includes Punta Gorda (search), the evacuation is voluntary. It's mandatory in Hardee County.
Charley, however, wiped out about 6,000 shelter spaces in Hardee, leaving room for no more than 850 people, said county spokesman Richard Shepard. Two general shelters and one for people with special needs were being opened in Manatee County to serve Hardee evacuees.
A Sarasota school has been set aside for people from DeSoto, which has no useable shelters.
One shelter, Port Charlotte's Cultural Center, has remained open for Charley victims whose homes are too badly damaged to occupy.
About 50 people were living there when the last Red Cross workers turned it over to county officials Friday and left for Bradenton to ride out Frances because the Cultural Center is not considered strong enough to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.
Red Cross shelter coordinator Stan Henshaw of Warwick, R.I., said he expects to return after Francis clears the area and resume serving Charley's victims.
"We are not leaving these people high and dry," Henshaw said.