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Karen may bring rain, wind
Storm expected to reach area early Monday

After a brief respite from a summer of steady rain, Bulloch and surrounding counties may see yet another wet spell as Tropical Storm Karen makes landfall this weekend.

"Enjoy Saturday, as it should be a pretty good weather day, but make preparations for the possibility of deteriorating weather conditions on Sunday into Monday," Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said Friday.

Although different weather sources offer varying predictions, Wynn said "Karen is expected to make landfall as possibly a category 1 hurricane somewhere close to Alabama or Mississippi early Sunday morning." Reports early Friday predicted the storm would pass over central Georgia by 7 a.m. Monday.

However, as is typical with Mother Nature, storms like Karen can make unpredictable moves.

"At present, it is experiencing some wind shear and some dry air, which thankfully is hindering it from strengthening," he said Friday. "This could change."

He advised keeping track of the weather over the weekend.
If the storm follows the path predicted Friday, southeast Georgia, including Bulloch County, could experience "possibly some heavy rain and gusty winds," he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Packett said Friday that Karen is expected to remain at tropical storm status through Sunday, and is expected to weaken as it makes landfall.

"Some forecast models have differences as to where the system will make landfall," Packett said.

Packett also warned that the storm is likely to bring heavy rainfall and possible high winds, especially over the coastal area.

A cold front from the west, added to the effects of the tropical storm, could amplify the weather, she said. This could bring "isolated rotation, tornadoes and strong winds," she said.

Most of the rainfall is expected in middle and south Georgia beginning Sunday afternoon, and pecan growers are keeping a close eye on how the weather might affect the state's crop.

Roy Goodson told WALB-TV in Albany that his pecan trees are full of nuts that will be ready to harvest in three to four weeks. He said a storm with strong winds could be devastating.

Goodson added that this year's pecan crop has already been an expensive one because growers had to spray chemicals to fight insects and disease brought on by persistent summer rains.

Wynn said Bulloch County Public Works employees have been prepared for possible damaging weather and are ready to "hit the ground running Monday morning."

Power outages are also a possibility, he warned.

"I would urge citizens to stay informed by monitoring their weather stations or news media."

The storm could bring heavy rain, "which could create flash flooding and make some roads impassable," he said. "Don't drive through standing water over roadways."

Because the chance exists of strong or gusty winds, Wynn suggests "bringing loose objects inside and securing heavy object such as tables, large umbrellas, and chairs. In high winds outdoor furnishings can become flying debris and cause damage as well as injuries."

Elsewhere, residents of a vulnerable Louisiana island town were ordered to leave Friday as Karen tracked toward the northern Gulf coast, weakening but poised to be the first named storm to hit the U.S. in what has so far been a quiet hurricane season.

Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle ordered the evacuation of his barrier island community, where the only way out is a single flood-prone highway.

Along with strong winds, the storm was expected to produce rainfall of 3 to 6 inches through Sunday night, with isolated totals up to 10 inches possible. Forecast tracks showed it possibly brushing, or crossing, the southeast Louisiana coast before veering eastward toward south Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Lifeguard stands were moved off the beach to higher ground on beaches in Florida and Alabama. States of emergency were in effect in Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Florida.

Traffic at the mouth of the Mississippi River was stopped Friday morning in advance of the storm.

In New Orleans, Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced that he had moved more than 400 inmates from temporary tent facilities to safer state lockups as a precaution. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a city emergency operations center would begin around-the-clock operations Friday evening.

Also preparing were residents of low-lying Braithwaite in Plaquemines Parish, near Louisiana's southeastern tip, where residents in some areas were ordered to evacuate beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. The community is still recovering from last year's Hurricane Isaac, a weak but slow-moving storm that brought unexpected flooding.

"I'm not expecting another Isaac, but we could get some water, so I'm moving what I can," said Larry Bartron, a fisherman who stowed nets and fishing gear in his 26-foot fishing boat, which he planned to move inside the levee system.

There were few signs of concern among visitors to Florida's Pensacola Beach, where visitors frolicked in the surf beneath a pier and local surfer Stephen Benz took advantage of the big waves.

"There is probably about 30 days a year that are really good and you really have to watch the weather, have the availability and be able to jump at a moment's notice," Benz said.

Across the region, Karen could affect weekend sporting and entertainment events. In south Alabama, the Bayfest music festival in Mobile was set to begin Friday, and organizers said the show — with a lineup including the Zac Brown Band and R. Kelly — would go on as much as possible. The three-day Gretna Fest in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna also was set to begin Friday night, with acts including Earth, Wind and Fire.

In Washington, the White House said the Federal Emergency Management Agency was recalling some workers furloughed due to the government shutdown to prepare for the storm, and spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama was being updated about the storm.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed under the partial government shutdown, but FEMA did not disclose the number of workers recalled for the storm.

The agency said workers were being sent to state-run emergency operations centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, as well as staffing federal coordination centers in Atlanta and Denton, Texas.
None of the recalled workers are currently being paid.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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