TALLAHASSEE As Tropical Storm Isaac moves past the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Rick Scott encourages residents and visitors statewide to stay vigilant as the storm is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane. The Florida panhandle remains in the cone of potential impact.
"There continues to be a lot of uncertainty about this storm. We don't know how much Isaac may slow down or intensify as it heads into the gulf," said Scott in a prepared statement. "Now is the time to prepare."
Local emergency officials in South Florida and the Keys are reporting only minor flooding and power outages, but these damage assessments are still early. This week, officials will begin getting a better look and those initial damage assessments may change.
This visible image of Tropical Storm Isaac was captured by NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 9:45 a.m. EDT and shows clouds from Tropical Storm Isaac from Cuba to northern Florida.
Credit: NASA GOES Project
Scott and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon continue to coordinate with local, state and federal partners to share information and offer assistance when requested.
"The path of Tropical Storm Isaac shifted to the west today," said Koon. "The panhandle forecast calls for several inches of rain. Unfortunately, much of Florida remains saturated from earlier storms, posing a risk of flooding in impacted areas."
Scott signed Executive Order 12-199, to declare a statewide state of emergency on Saturday The Executive Order designates Bryan W. Koon as the State Coordinating Officer. The Executive Order directs all state agencies, including the Florida National Guard, to provide any necessary assistance when requested by local governments. The State Emergency Operations Center is operating at a Level One, full activation.
The State Emergency Response Team stands ready to support requests for assistance from local officials. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working closely with Florida's emergency managers to ensure a seamless response operation in the impacted and forecast areas.
It is imperative that Florida's residents, businesses and visitors take the time to be prepared for the impact of Tropical Storm Isaac in the watch and warning areas, officials said. Ensure that you and your family have an emergency plan, including your local evacuation route, where you will go if you need to evacuate, a meeting place in case you are separated, contact information and important paperwork and nearby shelter information.
Also be sure your disaster supply kit is stocked and up to date with 72 hours worth of supplies to sustain yourself and your family members. This includes water, food, medication, personal care items, a weather radio, flashlight and batteries. Also be sure to fill up your tanks with gas and get cash in case ATMs are unavailable due to power loss. More tips and information are available at www.FloridaDisaster.org .
At 5 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Isaac was approximately 40 miles southwest of Key West, Florida. Isaac has decreased forward speed slightly, now moving west-northwest around 16 mph. A gradual turn toward the northwest with a decrease in forward speed is expected through the next two days, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Tuesday. Maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph and gradual strengthening is expected to occur as it moves into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Isaac is expected to be a hurricane within the next 24-48 hours.
Isaac remains a large storm, and tropical storm force winds extend as far as 205 miles from the center. The official National Hurricane Center forecast has shifted west, taking Tropical Storm Isaac away from the Florida Keys tonight, then on a course towards the Louisiana/Mississippi border. Confidence in the track of Isaac beyond Monday is still highly uncertain.
Hurricane Watch: Florida Gulf Coast east of Destin to Indian Pass
Hurricane Warning: Morgan City, Louisiana to Destin, Florida. This includes the counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.
Tropical Storm Warning: Florida Keys, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay; Lake Okeechobee; Florida peninsula from Sebastian Inlet southward on the East Coast and from Tarpon Springs southward on the West Coast; Florida panhandle coast east of Destin to the Suwannee River.
Shelters are open in 14 counties, including 10 special needs shelters and 28 general population shelters. Visit floridadisaster.org/shelters/summary.htm for details. Two shelters remain open in Lee County as of 8:30 p.m.- East Lee County High School and South Fort Myers High School, which is a pet-freindly high shelter. Harborside Event Center remains open for special needs. The shelters at Dunbar and Island Coast High Schools have been closed.
Schools will be closed in 25 counties on Monday. That includes schools in Lee County.
Seaports closed: Crystal River, Everglades, Fort Pierce, Key West, Manatee, Miami River, Miami, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, Tampa
Airport closures: Pensacola, Marathon, Key West
Bridge closures: Miami-Dade bridges locked down
DOT tolls suspended: Alligator Alley Eastbound
State building closures: Lee County- Ft. Myers Regional Service Center, Dade County- Opa Locka, FDLE Miami and Rhode buildings, Broward County- North Broward Regional Service Center and Gore building, Hillsborough County- Trammel and Hargrett buildings
Recommended Public Safety Actions:
Residents and visitors should heed all instructions from local officials and stay tuned to local media for the latest on Tropical Storm Isaac.
Follow beach warning flags. If you go to the beach, pay attention to the warning flags and do not swim if beaches are closed.
Watch for dangerous rip currents. Tropical storms, including Isaac, increase the risk of dangerous rip currents.
Turn Around, Don't Drown. If you see a flooded roadway, turn around and take another route. Take your time when travelling.
Avoid standing water. Avoid contact with flood waters, especially if you have open cuts. Do not allow children to play in floodwater.
Wash your hands. Stay as clean as possible by washing your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected.
Avoid downed power lines. If you see a downed power line, assume it is live and contact the utility.
Operate equipment only in safe conditions and if experienced in proper use.
Be alert to wildlife that may have been displaced as a result of flooding.
Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with contaminated water from floods or tidal surges.
Drain standing water to prevent mosquito-borne illness from garbage cans, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flowerpots or any other containers where sprinkler or rainwater has collected.
Cover your skin with clothing and insect repellent.
If you encounter tar or oiled debris on the beach, do not pick it up. Report it to the State Watch Office at 850-413-9900.
Florida Division of Emergency Management
Florida Department of Health www.doh.state.fl.us
Road and Bridge Closures www.fl511.com/
Shelter Status floridadisaster.org/shelters/summary.htm
County Emergency Management Agencies www.floridadisaster.org/County_EM/county_list.htm
For more information on preparation for and response to Tropical Storm Isaac, call the Florida Emergency Information Line at 1-800-342-3557. Hearing-impaired persons may call the Florida Telecommunications Relay at 1-800-226-4329 to receive information and access TDD systems. For local details, contact your county emergency management agency.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 November 30. To GET A PLAN! visit www.FloridaDisaster.org. For the latest information on the 2012 Hurricane Season, follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/flsert and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FloridaSERT.
Source: Florida Department of Emergency Management