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Scott to Escambia Countians Again: 'Be Ready' for Nate

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

For a second consecutive day, Gov. Rick Scott told residents in the western Panhandle to prepare for whatever Tropical Storm or Hurricane Nate throws their way. There’s a state of emergency for 29 counties in Florida – including those the western Panhandle.

Speaking again from the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center, the Governor quoted the National Hurricane Center’s forecast of Nate turning into a hurricane after it moves into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday. That could mean tropical storm-force winds in the Panhandle this weekend.

“A hurricane watch is in effect for the most western edge of Escambia County, to the Okaloosa and Walton County lines,” said Scott. “A storm surge watch is in effect from the Florida border to Indian Pass, and a tropical storm watch is in effect from Walton County east through Gulf County.”

Scott brought the same mantra to Pensacola, as he delivered during the times of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit south Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively – be ready.

“You have to pay attention to local weather, in order to keep your family safe; we cannot let our guard down,” said the Governor. “Harvey in less than 40 hours went from a tropical storm, to a Category-4 hurricane that was deadly. This storm is expected to bring damaging winds, heavy rain, and a threat of tornadoes to the Panhandle.”

Also expected along the coast are life-threatening rip currents; storm surge, flooding and other dangerous conditions. About 100 Florida National Guard troops are preparing for disaster operations.

Credit myescambia.com
Gov. Scott and local officials speak with the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Service about TS Nate.

If and when an evacuation order comes, people in the affected area need to leave immediately – no debate, no questions asked. Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan points to the many bridges in the area which would be closed during a storm.

“The standard is that we’ll monitor [the wind] when it hits a constant 35 miles an hour. When it hits 40, we’ll close the bridges,” Morgan said. “There’s a chance of your vehicle being blown off the bridge, especially tractor-trailer rigs. But what’s critical about that is if you’re in a location and decide to evacuate and our winds are at that level, you’re not going to get across the bridge. So you’re going to have to hunker down and shelter in place.”

“As we’re getting information from the Weather Service and the Hurricane Center, we’re getting that fine detail that allows us to make the appropriate decision, and get them moving,” said John Dosh, Escambia County’s Emergency Management Director.

Local elected officials joined the Governor at the EOC. Escambia County Commission Chairman Doug Underhill urges residents to have each other’s backs.

“You know somebody in your neighborhood who’s elderly or who have young children; perhaps a military family who’s never been here for a storm before,” said Underhill. “I want you to go and touch base with those folks who don’t have the experience or perhaps don’t have the resources to prepare the way you do, and help them prepare.”

The Escambia EOC officially went to Level-1, or full-scale activation, at 4:00 p.m. Friday.  

Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field have declared Hurricane Condition-3, which means winds of 58 miles an hour or greater are possible within 48 hours. Elsewhere, all of Gulf Islands National Seashore is closed to the public. And utilities such as Gulf Power and ECUA are contacting their mutual aid partners.