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Local Assistance Given As Joaquin Meanders In Atlantic


  As Hurricane Joaquin churns in the Atlantic, plans were put into place in northwest Florida to help, but there are changes in those plans.

Joaquin had appeared ready to move towards the East Coast, but the latest from the National Hurricane Center has the Category-4 storm and its 130 mph sustained winds jogging more to the northeast and further out into the Atlantic.

“Joaquin is finally starting to make that slow turn to the north, which is good news,” said Jeff Huffman with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “It means the forecast is back on track and we should see the system pull away from the Bahamas later today.”

Meanwhile, various Navy flight squadrons from the East Coast – notably Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia – were coming to the Panhandle as part of evacuation measures due to Hurricane Joaquin -- even though the path of the storm now takes it away from potentially affected installations.

“We’re talking about millions and millions of dollars’ worth of aircraft,” said Scott Halford, a public information officer aboard NAS Pensacola.

“Some are here already, some are on their way,” Halford said. “Some will be doing required training while here. Now that the storm has moved off to the north Atlantic, it’ll be easier for them to return. But they will stay with us for the weekend, and probably depart Monday.”

That training involves Strike Fighter Squadron 106, as it prepares for deployment. Halford’s also giving a heads-up to residents living near NAS, and Outlying Field Choctaw in Santa Rosa County, for additional noise from the squadron’s FA-18 Super Hornets.

On the ground, Gulf Power personnel from Pensacola, Crestview and Chipley had been scheduled to leave this morning to help with restoration efforts after Joaquin. Jeff Rogers at the utility says the call to stand down came early this morning.

“As early as 6:00 a.m. this morning, we had about 100 crew and support staff mustered and ready to go,” Rogers said. “When we received a call from Dominion Power up in Virginia that said ‘Looks like the storm is bearing off a little bit toward the northeast, and we won’t need you guys this time.’”

The plan for Gulf Power crews to go to Virginia was made through The Southeastern Electric Exchange Mutual Assistance -- an organization that helps utilities communicate with each other, and coordinate deployments to where they’re needed.

And Rogers urges residents in the Gulf Power service area – Pensacola to the Big Bend – to think about what they would do if a Joaquin or similar storm is heading their way.

“And that means having a personal plan for your family; to evacuate, when to put up storm shutters, do you have water and the supplies you need,” said Rogers. “Then also to think about safety, with downed power lines, generators, and that type of thing.”

More information about storm prep can be found at mygulfpower.com.