Officials closely watching Isaac

Published 11:55 am Friday, August 24, 2012

Local emergency response officials are closely watching the progress of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to move from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, Isaac is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane on Monday or Tuesday, when it moves into the Gulf. There is some concern in south Georgia and northwest Florida, because that the storm could bring high-speed winds and heavy rain to the region.

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“Right now, it’s still early to tell exactly where in the United States the storm will hit,” said Charlie McCann, who is Decatur County’s fire chief and head of the County Emergency Management Agency. “[As of Friday,] they’re predicting it could make landfall anywhere from Apalachicola, Fla., to Mobile, Ala., and there are some other factors involved that could change that outlook.”

Local officials began meeting in West Bainbridge on Thursday to participate in a Web-based conference call, hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Representatives from the Decatur County Schools, Memorial Hospital, Bainbridge College, the Sheriff’s Office, Bainbridge Public Safety and both City of Bainbridge and Decatur County public works departments were in attendance.

The conference calls will be held at least once daily until the threat from Tropical Storm Isaac is over. McCann said he and others would continue to meet over the weekend and keep the public informed about the storm as conditions warrant.

McCann said that locally, the focus is on making sure emergency personnel and both the city and county’s public works departments have equipment ready to go in the event Isaac brings wind and rain to the area.

Although the storm’s path toward the U.S. is still not certain, McCann encouraged citizens to check the status of their emergency kit and prepare one if they don’t already have one. The emergency kit should include flashlights, batteries, fresh drinking water, non-perishable canned food and a first-aid kit.

The Red Cross is preparing to open dozens of shelters across Florida, and moving hundreds of trained disaster workers into the state.

For people who wish to volunteer to work in a shelter, the South Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross is planning two training sessions for Saturday, Aug. 25. The training sessions will take place at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the chapter operations office, located at 509 N. Patterson St., in Valdosta, Ga.

Contact the office at (229) 242-7404 to register, or visit the South Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross on Facebook.