Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said Florida is poised to help its Gulf state neighbors as Tropical Storm Isaac appeared to spare much of the state from significant damage, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.
But the governor cautioned that the next 36 hours will be critical for residents of the far western Panhandle, who may face up to 18 inches of rain and tropical storm winds between late Monday night and sunrise Wednesday.
“Now our biggest concern is, especially, the western Panhandle where it appears they are going to get more rain; we can’t take much at all in the Panhandle because of (Tropical Storm) Debbie,” Scott said.
Reports coming in from South Florida and the Tampa Bay region were favorable, with no major damage or injuries reported so far. About 81,000 customers were without power in South Florida.
Shelters were closed Monday after housing 700 residents and visitors Sunday night in South Florida. Additional shelters were expected to be open in the Panhandle Monday night.
“We are very thankful for Florida that this storm is moving west but we are absolutely concerned about the citizens of Louisiana and the other states it could impact,” Scott told reporters Monday evening in Tallahassee.
Isaac intensified throughout the day Monday and could become a category 2 hurricane before making landfall late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The storm’s track has moved farther west than early forecasts had predicted.
Scott said he spoke to Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday, the last of four Gulf State governors Scott has been in contact with since preparations began.
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas have forged partnerships and mutual assistance compacts to pool resources. Louisiana officials called up 4,000 national guard troops to assist. Arkansas has called up 2,000 national guard troops.
“All of the southern states have a very good working relationship together,” Scott said. “We’ll all show up.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate spent the day in Tallahassee and is now moving to Alabama to oversee response there. Earlier in the day, Fugate said the storm’s size made it more difficult to pinpoint efforts.
“This is not a New Orleans storm,” Fugate said. “This is a Gulf Coast storm…Everybody’s focusing on New Orleans and they don’t understand this threat is not a point. It’s a large area.”
Scott cancelled his plans for the Republican National Convention, which will be in full swing beginning Tuesday, a day later than scheduled in deference to Isaac. Initially scheduled to give an opening night speech on Monday, the governor has instead turned his attentions to monitoring the storm.
“My job is to make sure that the 19 million people who live in our state are safe along with all our visitors, including the delegates to the RNC,” Scott said. “Everybody here (is) focused on the safety of everybody in our state.”