NE Fla. watches tropical storm closely

Red Cross, emergency management centers on standby

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - First responders and others in northeast Florida are watching Tropical Storm Karen closely.

It may have minimal impact on the area, but they want to be ready just in case.

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville will be fully staffed all weekend.

Meteorologists at NWS are relying on the National Hurricane Center for the watches and warnings.

"Once Karen gets closer, we will be monitoring double radar here at the airport to potentially issue any severe weather watches or warnings," said Ben Nelson, of NWS.

Others like the Red Cross are following the forecasts closely at its headquarters in Riverside. It also oversees operations for all of north Florida, including the Panhandle, and has already sent staff to assist.

"Right now it's going through the volunteer list, seeing what the availability is, putting shelters on standby, working very closely with our emegency management partners not only in Pensacola but Panama City," Red Cross spokeswoman Christian Smith said.

In areas like Lake City, where heavy rains from tropical storms have caused flooding in the past, emergency management staff is watching but not anticipating problems.

"We can expect 1 or 2 inches of rain," said Shayne Morgan, of the Columbia County Emergency Operations Center. "They don't expect that to be a major player. I guess the best way to describe it is a summer afternoon thunderstorm or a series of storms could roll through our area late Sunday, Monday morning, that kind of time frame."

It's the same story from the head of the Emergency Operations Center in Jacksonville.

"Currently we are watching the storm, we are watching to see if there is any progression or increased intensity in the storm," Billy Estep said. "Right now we are not seeing that. Obviously, we have to be vigilant."

The city said it is conducting routine maintenance on drains and ditches around town.

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