Emergency Officials Braced for Colin



Tropical Storm Colin had yet to reach land as of Monday evening, but emergency responders along the Gulf Coast had already been on alert for days. Rich Collins, emergency services director for Sarasota County, said his team was monitoring the weather late last week when the possibility of a named storm first seemed possible. “Our teams started taking protective actions last Friday,” he said.

Colin is the first tropical storm to threaten the Gulf Coast this hurricane season (which began last Wednesday), but it’s not the first time Sarasota’s emergency operations procedures have been activated this year, which happened when tornadoes threatened the region in January. But tropical storms and hurricanes can bring their own concerns and potential for disasters. Collins said emergency staff have been bracing for the worst case scenario—that a low-grade hurricane forms overnight and its path hooks toward the Gulf Coast instead of along its anticipated trajectory through the Big Bend area. Officials closely follow National Weather Service advisories and will respond accordingly as far as shelter availability and public works response. County officials have held conference calls with city management for all area municipalities in preparation for all circumstances.

As of Monday afternoon, emergency services was at partial Level 2 emergency response, and it’s quite possible that they will go to full Level 1 response if conditions worsen here. The chief concern for the Gulf Coast, where beaches already report high tide, will be rainfall. Several inches of rain struck this region on Monday, and in the Panhandle emergency officials are bracing for several feet of storm surge.

Collins noted that emergency officials can respond appropriately using models and data from numerous sources. “We are living in an age with so much information coming in,” he said. “We will look at all that information and make decisions.” 

Image from National Weather Service.

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