Bay County commissioners declared a local state of emergency Sunday afternoon as Tropical Storm Isaac entered the Gulf of Mexico and began churning toward the mainland. The declaration means the county's Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is shifting its storm response plans into high gear.
"Anytime we have a storm that has this kind of potential threat to Bay County, we try to prepare for the worst and naturally hope for the best," said Commissioner George Gainer.
The county – in conjunction with the American Red Cross – will open two emergency shelters at Deane Bozeman School at 7:00 a.m. Monday. One shelter will be for the general population and the other will serve citizens with special needs.
Bob Pearce, Executive Director of the agency's Central Panhandle Chapter, said the shelters will provide safe havens but will not have the comforts of home. "It means it might not be the most comfortable place in the world, so bring some things with you that are going to make you a little more comfortable," he said.
Pearce said items such as pillows, sleeping bags, children's toys, puzzles and reading material should be on the list of shelter items. But at the top, he said, are medications.
Commissioner Gainer said he has complete confidence in the EOC's ability to handle the emergency. "If you've watched their performance in the past and you see how they break it down, they're truly professionals," he said. "They don't take any chances."
Deane Bozeman School is the only Bay District school not in session on Monday. County offices will be open as usual.
The county has not issued an evacuation order, but EOC Chief Mark Bowen said that could change if Isaac begins to bear down on Bay County.
Up to date emergency response information is available at the Florida Division of Emergency Management website.