CHIPLEY — Washington County officials were preparing for Tropical Storm Karen on Friday.
“We’ve already drafted a local State of Emergency declaration, and I will be signing that shortly so we don’t have to call the Board of County Commissioners in on the weekend,” said Public Safety Director Lynne Abel. “We’re just doing that as a precaution.”
Abel said the county is on call with the National Weather Service.
“The biggest impact we are expecting is rain, but there is always the potential for a tornado to spin up,” she said. “It looks like this is going to be a weekend event, and we aren’t seeing that we will need to close schools on Monday, but you never can tell.”
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott called FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to request that all needed federal resources would be available for Tropical Storm Karen. The storm poses a threat to the Florida Panhandle and could strengthen into a Category 1 Hurricane. A hurricane watch has already been issued for Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay, and Gulf Counties.
Abel said Washington County residents should take this storm seriously and make the usual preparations. “They should take all the typical precautions, have a little cash on hand, top off the fuel, and have some extra food,” she said.
“Be prepared,” Abel said, “and go from there.”
Governor Rick Scott said, “Our number one priority is the safety of our citizens. We will not let the government shutdown in Washington in any way hurt our emergency response efforts in Florida. I spoke to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate this evening and got his personal assurance that no federal resource would be denied in response to Tropical Storm Karen, despite the ongoing federal shutdown.
“I have directed the Department of Emergency Management to continuously assess whether federal resources are being withheld because of the shutdown, and the state stands ready to step in to provide any emergency support needed.
“The National Guard has activated 20 guardsmen who will be directing the pre-positioning of equipment and personnel in order to respond to the storm. As we prepare for the potential impact of Tropical Storm Karen, it is imperative that all Florida residents and visitors be prepared. Those in the path of the storm should follow instructions from local officials to ensure safety.”