County Commission declares state of emergency

A slide from Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane’s Aug. 24 presentation to the County Commission shows the current potential for rain effects from Tropical Storm Isaac.

The Sarasota County Commission today, Aug 24, unanimously declared a state of emergency because of the potential threat from Tropical Storm Isaac.

The action was “strictly an administrative procedure,” Ed McCrane, the county’s emergency management chief, pointed out in remarks to the commission during a special meeting in Sarasota.

Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane (left) addresses the County Commission in special session Aug. 24. Commissioner Joe Barbetta was unable to attend the meeting. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The County Commission also declared a state of emergency in June, in anticipation of effects from Tropical Storm Debby. Adopting such resolutions allows for the use of public funds in response to effects from storms and enables the county to apply for state and federal financial assistance, if necessary, a county news release noted.

McCrane told the commission he and his staff were participating in conference calls every six hours with National Weather Service staff in Ruskin, to keep track of the storm’s progress.

“We’re not sure exactly how Isaac’s impacts will affect us at this point and what the track will be,” he explained

He and his staff also would coordinate with public safety officials from throughout the county “and our partners in the local jurisdictions” over the weekend, to make decisions on any action deemed necessary, he said. The final check with those officials is planned for 9 a.m. Sunday, McCrane said, which would allow plenty of time for appropriate responses, as the earliest the county would be expected to experience effects from Isaac would be Monday, Aug. 27.

Sarasota County Public Schools Superintendent Lori White is expected to make a decision on Sunday, he added, about whether to close schools on Monday.

The latest National Hurricane Center information puts the storm’s track 100 miles offshore at its closest point to Southwest Florida, he said. “It could have some substantial impacts on the county,” McCrane added. “We do have a potential for receiving tropical storm-force winds …”

That probability is 20% to 30%, he said, with the potential for winds up to 50 knots.

The latest rainfall forecast shows 6 to 8 inches of rain falling in parts of the state, he said. “Because of the amount of rain that we have had, the ground is saturated and many areas are experiencing minor to moderate flood stages,” he added. The Myakka River at Myakka River State Park was observed at 6 feet at 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 22, he said. The flood stage is 7 feet.

Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27 and Aug. 28, are the days when those wind and rain chances are the greatest, he added.

With the current forecast for Isaac, McCrane said, the river is projected “to get into minor flood stage, then [recede] as the week progresses.”

However, he pointed out, if the storm intensified and its track brought it closer to Southwest Florida, “the rainfall amounts could change this dramatically in 48 to 72 hours after the storm passes.”

Moreover, McCrane said, “Minor coastal flooding is possible, and we always have the threat of isolated tornadoes when we have a storm paralleling the coastline.”

If Isaac stays on its current track, McCrane said, Emergency Management staff would need to recommend anything but voluntary evacuations from areas where flooding might occur.

McCrane also said he and his staff had worked with the Health and Communications department staffs on a message that will go out to everyone in the county on the special needs registry. That message, he said, “will tell [the registrants] we are monitoring the storm closely, that we don’t anticipate opening the shelters at this time. However, if that changes, they will be notified.”

The County Call Center will have extra staff this weekend, too, he said, in anticipation of a heavier flow of calls. The center’s number is 941-861-5000.

People also may visit and click on the “All Hazards” link for up-to-date information.