MacRae's at Tropical Storm Eta

MacRae's of Homosassa store worker Erica Toney says items such as the ice cream freezer were lifted off the floor and placed on concrete blocks to avoid damage from potential Tropical Storm Eta flooding.

Erica Toney has seen it all weatherwise.

The fourth generation Homosassan was working Wednesday at MacRae’s of Homosassa bait shop as rain pelted the parking lot.

She and co-workers had placed large items, such as the ice cream freezer, on concrete blocks to protect them from the inevitable rush of water from Tropical Storm Eta.

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It’s normal fare for anyone living on Florida’s Gulf Coast, particularly in flood-prone areas like Homosassa.

But even Toney said the timing — two weeks before hurricane season ends — is odd.

“Usually by hunting season we’re pretty safe,” she said.

Across Citrus County’s coastal communities, residents and business workers prepared for Eta thinking of the worst-case scenario: wind and storm surge.

“Flooding is our biggest concern,” she said.

Same held true at Pete’s Pier in Crystal River, where boaters moved their boats off the water or secured loose items.

“A lot of people are coming by to get their boats to prepare for the hurricane,” office manager Stephanie Gardner said.

Like many whose attention was captured with the fast-moving storm, Gardner isn’t sure how it will hit the county.

“It’s hard to tell,” she said. “They say one thing and then it changes an hour later.”

The county opened self-serve sandbag sites in Crystal River and Homosassa, where turnout was slow throughout the day, assistant public works director Larry Brock said.

At the Homosassa site behind the public library, a Fort Myers man with a weekend home on the Homosassa River loaded up sandbags.

“I’ve got a hundred sandbags already there from previous storms,” he said. “I’m 10 feet from the river.”

Toney, at MacRae’s, said she thinks coastal residents are being “knowledgeable cautious” with the storm potential.

“I’ve been through this before many times,” she said. “Emotionally, physically, we have to live with it.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com. To view more of his stories, go to www.tinyurl.com/y3bakm6w.