Levy emergency managers keep an eye on Karen

Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.

An unusually quiet hurricane season has suddenly whipped to life with the birth in the Gulf of Mexico of Tropical Storm Karen, which could become the first hurricane to hit the U.S. this year.

The storm is not expected to pose much of a threat to North Central Florida, including the coastal areas of Levy County.

"It's a minimal-level storm right now, and a lot of things are going to affect it between now and Saturday," said Mark Johnson, Levy County emergency management director. "We look at them in snapshots, and anything can happen. We have to monitor it closely. If it leans further over, it's going to change surge numbers on our coastline."

Johnson predicted that the biggest impact may be felt at high tide — about 4 p.m. — on Sunday. A surge on top of the normal high tide could max out at 3.5 feet above mean sea level on flood poles in Cedar Key and Yankeetown.

"They are used to getting that kind of water in these places just with summer storms," Johnson said.

Alachua County Emergency Management Director Dave Donnelly said the county will not feel any effects of the storm except some rain as long as it stays on its current forecast path.

But Donnelly said he will be watching the storm closely and suggested that residents use this as an opportunity to review their emergency plans and supply kits.

"Based on the present forecast, we may get some rain for the weekend or the first of next week," Donnelly said. "The one thing that the National Weather Service is concerned about is that one of the models … is indicating more of an eastward track, which would put the eye or landfall south of Panama City or in the Apalachicola area. That would put more of the weather over us."

A hurricane watch has been issued by the National Weather Service from Panama City to New Orleans. The current track indicates the storm will make landfall sometime Saturday morning in the vicinity of Mobile Bay in Alabama either as a tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane.

Winds as of early Thursday afternoon were about 60 mph. The minimum strength of sustained winds in a hurricane is 74 mph.

Some National Weather Service staffers are working despite the government shutdown. However, the weather service office in Jacksonville is either closed or not taking phone calls.

The agency's National Hurricane Center website at www.nhc.noaa.gov/ is being updated.

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