Panhandle impact down from 'minor' to 'minimal'

Local fishing charters suffering due to the storm

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla - Emergency management officials in Florida's Panhandle said that they expected the effects of Tropical Depression 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.

Gulf Coast readies for Karen to come ashore

With blue skies turning cloudy, people once again headed out to the boardwalk in Pensacola Beach to get a look at the larger than normal waves in the Gulf of Mexico. The red flags were still out, keeping swimmers out of the water, but many locals still aren't worried about Karen's potential impact.

"I haven't seen too much concern. I think this town is pretty smart about preparing."

For some, those preparations include making sure that their boats are secured so that any storm surge won't do damage to the boats.

"We're double lining everything, put some extra bumpers out, just get the boat away from the docks a little bit," Christian Desantis, a boat mechanic, said.

That uncertainty is the frustrating part for John Fenzer. He, like many others, has had to cancel all of his charters from Friday through Monday. He says that this time of the year, with snapper season just opening on October 1st, they are usually very busy, but it wasn't worth the risk.

"We have cancelled trips we had. We aren't getting any interest now. But hopefully that won't effect the near future," said John Fenzer, a charter boat captain. "Seas are 7-10 feet. It wouldn't be a day you could be out there fishing anyway. But that's just a product of the storm."

And because most people have been through this before, they say that experience in these types of situations makes it easier to deal with.

"It does take the anxiety away. We can appreciate that it's mother nature,"said Jennifer McGaugh. "We just need to be who we are and take the necessary precautions."

The bigger than normal waves were one of the only signs that a tropical storm was churning off the Florida coast, it didn't stop people from checking it out.

"The waters really high it's really rough. The waves are crashing surfers are out there right now having a good time we're worried more about beach erosion than anything."

Even though concerns were low, shelves at Walmart and grocery stores were nearly empty of bottled water and other storm essentials.

"We've got some supplies just in case we do have to shelter in place for a while," said Bill Godfrey, who is in town for a wedding.

"The grocery stores are empty there's no water there's no bread it reminds me that we might have some gas shortages later in the day," David Carrington said.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.