Walton County Tracks Tropical Storm Karen - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Walton County Tracks Tropical Storm Karen

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In Walton County, officials track the potential path of Karen and are already discussing voluntary evacuations for low lying areas.

Their main concern is the oversaturated ground from this summer's heavy rainfall and what high winds could do to trees and power lines.

Bridge closings, evacuations, winds and rainfall were all words that traveled Thursday between commissioners and emergency preparedness managers.

Major Joe Preston with the Walton County Sheriff's Office outlined the potential threat Karen could bring.

"We can expect about 2 to 3 foot storm surge based on it's current path. We can expect about a 5 to 7 inch, worst case 6 to 10 inch, accumulation of rainfall over the next 4 to 5 days," he said.

The potential for 6 to 10 inches of rainfall in a short period is serious, said Preston, but the danger could multiply considering the sheer amount of rainfall seen in the month of July…more than 45 inches.

"Based on the rains back in July, we're still very saturated. The ground level is very high and we're worried about absorption of all this rainfall coming in and the potential flooding in low lying areas," said Preston.

The County is investing in pumps to navigate excess water out into the bay from low lying areas below Highway 20 said Commissioner Sara Comander.

"We are ready. [Public Works Officials] have worked all day making sure that we have the proper equipment and staging areas so that we will move on a moments notice," she said.

Friday, these could be the first areas to see a voluntary evacuation and a declaration of a state of emergency is expected Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, residents are urged to plan ahead, prepare and stay vigilant.

"If they choose to stay, they need to plan to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours, have food, water, that kind of stuff, medical supplies," said Preston.

The Emergency Operations Center is set to open on a level 2 partial activation Friday and full activation on Saturday.

As a reminder, the Clyde B. Wells Bridge will close if winds exceed 45 miles per hour.