Ana, Bill following Claudette

Published 11:59 pm Monday, August 17, 2009

Tropical Storm Claudette breezed on to the Gulf Coast on Sunday without much warning, but brought only rain to Covington County.

Covington County EMA director Susan Carpenter said no serious damage was reported.

“We had a lot of rain, but nothing like the wind and rain we were expecting,” she said.

Claudette quickly weakened after it made landfall at Fort Walton Beach, and was downgraded to a tropical depression with winds of about 30 miles per hour.

Carpenter said Claudette — which claimed the life of a surfer — serves as a reminder.

“It’s time to get our hurricane plans together,” she said.

Ironically, Carpenter, who recently was named Covington County’s EMA and has held the job previously, said she had scheduled a hurricane planning session for this coming Thursday.

“I was pleased to see how well the police, fire and rescue work together,” she said. “I’m impressed every time I work with them.”

Meanwhile, even as first responders plan for the hurricane planning session this week, all eyes are on the tropics, where Ana, once a tropical storm but now a tropical depression, is expected to take a path very similar to Claudette’s.

Forecasters said tropical depression Ana was poorly organized and weakening, but its heavy rains could threaten poverty-stricken Haiti, which was devastated by multiple storms last year. Early models show Ana — if it remains an organized storm — coming ashore on the Florida peninsula Saturday morning.

Forecasters with Impact Weather said once Ana crosses the Dominican Republic and Cuba, there is some potential for regeneration once it enterers the Gulf. And it could regain tropical storm strength.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the 2009 season, Bill, is expected to become a major hurricane in the next couple of days, with winds topping 100 mph as it moved on a track expected to be near Bermuda by the end of the week.

John Cangialosi, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said Monday it was too soon to tell if Bill would threaten the eastern coast of the United States, but it was not expected to threaten Florida.

The cluster of three named Atlantic storms after two months with none was no indication of what the rest of the season could bring, forecasters said. The season’s peak is mid-September.

Cangialosi said the way storm systems develop is chaotic: It can be quiet and then get busy. “This is certainly normal,” he said.