KEY WEST, Fla. – Of the thousands of Floridians preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Dennis, Kristi Kief had one of the more unusual duties.
Kief was in charge of moving about 100 alligators out of a retention pond at Fudpucker's restaurant in the Panhandle resort destination of Destin. The alligators live in the fenced-in pond and serve as an attraction for tourists and the restaurant's patrons.
"We're putting them inside the building so they don't get out," Kief said. "We figured that would be a good idea."
The alligators will ride out the storm in a spare room inside the restaurant so they don't become a menace to residents if they escape. Kief said the alligators can go a long time without food or water and should be fine.
Andrea Walter, a 35-year-old homemaker from Gulf Breeze in the Panhandle, couldn't believe she had to prepare for another hurricane. She just moved back into a house after her old one was damaged by Hurricane Ivan.
"We didn't even unpack yet and we're boarding up," she said. "I have my moments of bitterness, but I'm OK. You can't get too discouraged or you'll go crazy."
Rebecca Cabassa thinks it might be time for her husband Marc to move away from where he grew up in Gulf Breeze.
"I personally knew when we got married that we would be in this neighborhood, but these storms are telling me it might be a sign that we need to move on," said the 40-year-old interior designer.
Her husband was a little more optimistic, though. He noted that Pensacola was struck by a series of hurricanes when Don Tristan de Luna established the first Spanish colony here in 1559.
"We had a decade of getting hammered, and in the early 1900s when Pensacola was going to take off as a lumber town we had a decade of getting hammered, and now you could go from (1995 Hurricanes) Erin and Opal to this period, there's another decade," he said.
"We've been through a lot of storms and there'll be more, but you've got problems just about anywhere you want to live: flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes. At least we have some warnings on this."
Police went through waterfront neighborhoods in coastal cities in the Panhandle telling residents they were under mandatory evacuation orders -- and if they stayed it would be at their own peril.
In Fort Walton Beach, they didn't have any problem convincing Pat Gosney, who remained in his house across the street from an offshoot of Choctawhatchee Bay during Hurricane Ivan last year.
"That's why we're leaving (this time)," Gosney said. "We'll never stay again."
Gosney pointed to a place on his house about knee-high where the water reached last year -- and he's still not finished fixing the house from Ivan's damage.
His front windows were covered by boards bearing the names of storms the house has been through before: "Eloise, Alberto, Erin, Opal and Ivan."
"I just put the big ones on there," Gosney said.
Gosney was one of the last out of his neighborhood, which was eerily deserted Saturday morning, while the weather outside was still nice.
At a gas station just off Interstate 10 in Pensacola, Margie Galvan had eight 5-gallon plastic gasoline cans lined up in the back of her car, still in their cardboard case and wrapped in plastic. She was filling them one by one, assembly-line style.
Galvan, 37, said she and her two children, ages 10 and 16, were going to tough it out in Pensacola with a generator, which they didn't have when they rode out during Hurricane Ivan.
"I think were safe," she said, as gasoline overflowed into the back of her car.
She said she bought the $700 generator Friday and got up at 5 a.m. Saturday to try to find gas cans and other last minute supplies.
Nearby, Danielle Kelson, 29 of Pensacola, was filling up eight red plastic gas cans, which she had purchased just an hour before. Some people had waited up to an hour and a half at the gas station.
Kelson was out of her apartment for a month after Ivan, but decided to stay for Dennis in spite of that.
"This is home" she said. "This is what we go through. This is Florida."
She was to stay with her grandmother, Mary Pfeiffer, 77, whose home was damaged by Ivan.
Pfeiffer says she probably should leave, but her granddaughter "feels safer in my little house."
"I feel perfectly safe. We're stocked up on water, we're stocked up on fuel. We'll be fine," Pfeiffer said.