Local emergency management officials in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties are monitoring Invest 90L, a storm system currently situated over the Yucatan Peninsula.
The system has a 90 percent chance at development into a tropical depression or tropical storm over the next five days, according to the National Hurricane Center. But regardless of formation, forecasters say the storm is expected to dump between 4 to 7 inches of rain, with potentially 9 to 12 inches in some places, over Northwest Florida from late Saturday into Tuesday.
According to the latest update from the NHC, a subtropical or tropical depression is likely to form by late Saturday over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Though its exact path isn't 100 percent clear, storm models continually put its landfall somewhere between Panama City Beach and Mobile.
The threat of rip currents will steadily increase along the Gulf coast from Florida westward to Louisiana over the Memorial Day weekend, the NHC reports.
A flash flood watch has been issued starting Saturday evening through Tuesday evening for portions of Alabama, Northwest Florida, and southeast Mississippi, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile. Walton County is not currently under a flash flood watch, but Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties are. This information will likely change through the weekend.
“We are ready for this storm,” said Okaloosa County Public Safety Director Stefan Vaughn. “We have a cadre of experts in our Emergency Operations Center with decades of experience in handling storms. Okaloosa County is ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”
In Santa Rosa County, Emergency Management Operations Chief Tom Lloyd said police, fire, EMS and 911 call centers have been “staffed appropriately” for the weekend, and the lifeguards and Sheriff’s Office have been involved in conference calls with emergency management to prepare for any impacts the storm may bring.
“We want to stress vigilance,” Lloyd said. “We don’t want to scare anybody, but there’s power in knowledge and power in facts, and it’s going to rain this weekend. We just want to make sure our community is prepared.”
In Walton County, Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg said talking points had been distributed to the Sheriff's Office, fire departments, dispatchers and Visit South Walton.
Sand bags are available for residents in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties:
In Santa Rosa county, sand is available at Leisure Street in Holley by the Sea, Tiger Point Park in Gulf Breeze, Pace Fire-Rescue in Pace, and the corner of Pine Forest Road and Carroll Road in Milton. Residents are asked to bring their own sand bags and shovel. In Okaloosa county, sandbags and sand are available upon request at the north county public works yard (1759 S. Ferdon Blvd., Crestview) and the south county public works yard (84 Ready Ave. NW, Fort Walton Beach) In Fort Walton Beach, sandbags are available for city residents at the city maintenance yard (116 Hollywood Blvd. SW). Residents are asked to bring their own sand bags and shovel. Ten bags per resident per visit. Each county is disseminating information about the storm and about preparedness plans on their various social media pages:
Okaloosa County Santa Rosa County Santa Rosa County flood zones Walton County In addition, residents of Okaloosa county can download the "Ready Okaloosa" phone applications to get up-to-the-minute storm notices. Residents in Santa Rosa County can go to www.alertsantarosa.com, which does run on the Everbridge app.