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EMA urges caution for weekend storm

There remains a great deal of uncertainty as weather experts track the intensity and path of Tropical Storm Nate, which very well could become Hurricane Nate, this weekend.

But for Butler County EMA director Kris Ware, one thing remains certain—regardless of Nate’s impact on the region, it’s a threat she’s taking seriously.

Ware sat in on multiple webinars Friday afternoon that detailed an ever-changing overview of the storm.  In the five hours between her first and second meetings, Nate’s course and intensity had already changed considerably. 

According to the latest from the National Weather Service of Mobile/Pensacola, Tropical Storm Nate is forecast to increase in speed and move north into the Gulf of Mexico early Saturday, strengthening to a hurricane prior to making landfall either late Saturday evening or early Sunday morning.

The potential for wind, storm surge, tornadoes and locally heavy rain is higher on the east side of the storm. 

And though Nate’s peak strength is uncertain, it is expected to fluctuate between a Category 1 and Category 2 storm (sustained winds ranging between 74-110 mph).

Butler County was originally slated to receive 2.39 inches of rain from Nate, but that number has risen to nearly 3 inches.

“It has already shifted back east again,” Ware said after her second 11 a.m. meeting Friday afternoon.

“And as far as storm surge for our coastal area, the amount of rain we were planning to get has increased and the wind speeds have also increased.  There is a lot of uncertainty.”

Ware continued by saying that flooding, tornadoes and sustained winds topping 40 mph are all potential concerns for the Butler County region, in addition to wind gusts capable of felling trees.

An additional concern comes not from the storm itself, but rather citizens’ reactions to that storm. 

Ware worried that Hurricane Irma’s less-than-anticipated impact on Alabama has created a false sense of security for some.

“People are going to go ‘well, nothing happened last time,’” Ware said.  “I don’t think anybody should take any storm lightly. Always be prepared.  Always have your supplies ready.  Expect the worse, and when it’s the best we can all come out smiling and safe.

“I’m planning how the worst.  That’s how I always plan, and that’s my philosophy because the citizens of Butler County are No. 1, and I want to make sure they’re safe in any situation that might arise.”