Storm bears down on Florida Panhandle

The Associated PressAugust 17, 2009 

— Brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Claudette was bringing heavy rain to the Florida Panhandle on Sunday, likely becoming the first tropical storm to strike the U.S. mainland this year.

Claudette had winds of at least 50 mph, but the storm was not expected to cause significant flooding or wind damage. Lurking more ominously was Tropical Storm Bill, which was quickly turning into a powerful storm over warm waters in the open Atlantic with sustained winds of 65 mph. Ana, a tropical storm that had also been churning in the Atlantic, weakened to a depression.

Heavy rain began in the afternoon in Pensacola as Claudette approached. On Pensacola Beach, the National Park Service closed low-lying roads that connect the restaurants and hotels to the undeveloped National Seashore and historic Fort Pickens.

Miguel Gonzalez, on vacation from North Carolina, was unconcerned as he readied his children for a day on Pensacola Beach.

He said his family would head in when the rain started. "We will just stay out there for an hour or so, take a few pictures and then leave," he said.

Rainfall of 3 to 5 inches was expected, and isolated areas can expect up to 10 inches, forecasters said.

"This event is a good example of how quickly a tropical storm can develop," said John Dosh, manager of Emergency Management. "We won't always have a lot of warning. This is why citizens need to be prepared throughout hurricane season."

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