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Crist declares emergency, Ida's tropical force winds felt in the Panhandle

TAMPA — Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency for all Florida counties Monday morning as Ida neared the northern Gulf Coast.

Ida, which was a Category 1 hurricane for most of Sunday night and early Monday, was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning. The storm is not expected to have much impact on Tampa Bay, other than gusty winds and rain. Boaters are advised to stay home.

Tropical storm force winds already are being felt along the Florida Panhandle, repots Bay News 9 chief meteorologist Mike Clay. "Most of the significant weather with Ida is moving ashore right now, well ahead of the center,'' Clay said early Monday afternoon. Ida is producing moderate to heavy rain, he added. (latest tracking map below)

Some storm surge is expected in the Panhandle, Clay said. "This is mainly a coastal event up in the Panhandle but gusty winds well inland could knock down trees and cause power outages,'' Clay said. "Damage is expected to be much less than the last November hurricane to hit Florida, Hurricane Kate in 1985 came in as a Category 2 near Apalachicola.''

It seems likely Ida will not regain enough strength to become a hurricane again, Clay said.

Credit for that goes to cooler water in the Gulf of Mexico and stronger wind shear near the coast, said Jen Colson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

The Tampa Bay area can expect gusty and rainy conditions until Wednesday, Colson said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the northern Gulf Coast from east Aucilla River, in north Florida, west to Grand Isle, La.

Rain levels are expected to reach 3 to six inches, with up to 8 inches possible through Tuesday.

A mix of Ida and another storm area to the north will produce strong winds of 15 to 30 mph in Tampa Bay, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez. It will be cloudy today with a chance of showers, she said, but most of the rainfall has been off the coast.

The big impact around Tampa Bay today is on boaters, she said. A small-craft advisory has been issued, so it's not recommended to be out on the water. Winds offshore have been from 15 to 20 knots, with gusts as high as 30 knots. Waves have reached heights of 10 feet off shore and are about 4 to 7 feet closer to shore, she said.

While no counties in Tampa Bay have declared a state of emergency, counties in the Panhandle are preparing for the storm. Escambia County declared a local state of emergency Sunday, according to the Pensacola News Journal. Some residents even began leaving their homes Monday, the paper reported.

A voluntary evacuation order started at 7 a.m. for residents who live on Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. All mobile home residents were also asked to evacuate, the paper reports.

In Alabama, Baldwin County has also declared a local state of emergency and plans on opening a shelter today, the Mobile Press-Register reported. Schools are closed in that county, but Mobile County plans to keep schools open.

"Even though we're telling everybody to be prepared, my gut tells me it probably won't be that bad," Steve Arndt, director of Bay Point Marina Co. in Panama City, Fla, told the Press-Register.

Tracking Ida

View Larger Map | Powered by hurricane-tracking software from Stormpulse.com

Crist declares emergency, Ida's tropical force winds felt in the Panhandle 11/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 11:56am]
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