Manatee officials to start preparing for possibility of Isaac

MANATEE -- County officials are forming their game plan in the event Tropical Storm Isaac visits here.

An initial briefing at the county’s Emergency Operations Center is slated for 9 a.m. Friday for everyone who works in the building, and others who work at affiliated agencies, said Laurie Feagans, Manatee’s emergency operations chief.

At the initial briefing, county officials will explain what they think the game plan will be in dealing with Isaac.

The storm continued on a potentially destructive path toward the island of Hispaniola, but its future path, should it cross Cuba and enter the Gulf of Mexico, is still uncertain, forecasters said.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty out there, mainly because it’s still a tropical storm right now,” said Todd Barron, a meterologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

At 8 p.m. tonight, the storm’s winds were at about 45 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

By Friday or early Saturday, Isaac is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane, with wind speeds of 74-95 mph, Barron said.

The weather service’s 5-day forecast predicted it would follow a track that takes it west of Tampa, Barron said.

The storm will be near Manatee County sometime Monday, probably in the afternoon, Barron said.

“If it does follow the current track, it will affect you in some way,” Barron said of those living in Manatee County.

Even it if does stay offshore, there are threats of tornadoes and other serious weather disturbances, he noted.

No warnings or watches have been issued for our area so far, he said.

The county’s pre-briefing for approximately 120 workers Friday will be at the Emergency Operations Center, at the Public Safety Center, 2101 47th terrace E., officials said.

It is designed to determine when and how Manatee’s center will be activated, should the storm threaten the area, Feagans said.

Feagans confirmed reports that the county is planning to call as soon as Saturday its “special needs” citizens, who would have difficulty evacuating.

“We’ll call them Saturday to give a heads-up, and actually move people on Sunday if we have to,” she said.

The county is not yet advising that people board-up their homes, Feagans said, but she did offer a clear message to the public: “Have your family plan and disaster kit ready.”

“This storm will bring rain and tropical force winds,” she said. “The ground is already saturated, so people should be especially mindful of high winds that could topple trees.”

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