Panhandle Prepares for Tropical Storm Karen
PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - Emergency management officials in Florida's Panhandle said Saturday that they expected the effects of a weakening Tropical Storm Karen to be minimal, but they still urged residents and visitors to beware rough surf and prepare for emergencies.
No evacuations were ordered in the Panhandle, though shelters and emergency responders were on stand-by, officials said.
"Expected impact from the storm has been reduced from 'minor' to 'minimal,'" according to an update from the Escambia County Division of Emergency Management.
Karen's forward progress has slowed and the weather system's winds and rains probably would not be felt in northwest Florida until Sunday afternoon or evening, said Mark Bowen, Bay County's chief of emergency services.
Okaloosa County officials said none if its three airports would close.
Rough surf seemed to be the biggest threat along the Panhandle's sugary white beaches, where red flags warned swimmers about dangerous rip currents.
Dozens of surfers took advantage of the swells off Pensacola Beach, "but it is definitely not the sort of day for someone to learn how to surf. It is just too rough," said senior lifeguard Alexander Johnson.
Mark Butler and his wife from nearby Gulf Breeze fished off a pier instead of taking out their boat as they had planned. The couple have weathered numerous hurricanes and said they were happy Karen doesn't appear to be too much of a threat.
"It is a great sense of relief. We don't want to be cleaning up and spending days with electricity," Butler said.
Local states of emergencies have been declared in Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Madison, Liberty and Washington counties. Gov. Rick Scott urged residents to see Karen's potential threat as an opportunity to bolster their hurricane season supplies.
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