Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura: What you need to know Sunday in Pensacola

From staff reports Published 7:04 PM EDT Aug 23, 2020Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura are expected to

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Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura are expected to cause dangerous swimming and surfing conditions in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and dump several inches of rain on the region this week.

Tropical Storm Marco officially strengthened to a hurricane Sunday and is expected to make landfall in Louisiana on Monday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Marco is the earliest named "M" storm to form in recorded history and comes as Tropical Storm Laura is also expected to enter the Gulf early this week. Laura is expected to pick up steam and could approach Louisiana on Wednesday as a hurricane.

If the forecast holds true, it would be the first time in recorded history that two hurricanes were in the Gulf at the same time.

On the forecast track: Marco strengthens to Category 1 hurricane, see its forecast path here

Rare coincidence: Gulf Breeze 'wonder twins' Laura and Marco share names with wonder storms Laura and Marco

Closures: Gulf Islands National Seashore closing day use areas, to evacuate Fort Pickens campground

While the Pensacola area is outside the forecast cones for both storms, that doesn't mean the Panhandle won't feel any affects from the tropical systems. Here's what you need to know about the weather on Sunday:

Pensacola area to see rain, minor flooding from Marco-Laura combo

The combination of Marco and Laura is expected to bring periods of heavy rain to the region as well as minor flooding, particularly along the coast.

Most of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will see between 2 and 4 inches of rain, with 4 to 6 inches of rain possible for coastal Escambia County, according to the Sunday afternoon update from the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama.

Both counties are under a coastal flood advisory through 7 p.m. Wednesday. Minor coastal flooding is forecast across coastal parts of Northwest Florida with inundation of 1 to 2 feet possible.

High rip current, huge waves expected

Coastal parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are under a high rip current risk through Wednesday night and a high surf advisory from midnight Sunday through midnight Monday.

Surf heights are expected to ramp up Sunday night with large breaking waves of 5 to 7 feet expected in the surf zone Monday. The NWS warns there will be a brief lull in surf heights after Marco passes, with a drastic increase to 8 to 10 feet Tuesday night into Wednesday.

There remains a risk for high rip current, which can sweep even advanced swimmers away from shore into deeper water.

By Sunday evening, red flags were flying at Pensacola Beach to signal no swimming or wading in the Gulf of Mexico. Double red flags were up at Navarre Beach to signal that people should not enter the water.

Tropical storm conditions possible

Tropical storm conditions are possible along coastal Alabama and parts of southeast Mississippi. A tropical storm watch remains in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Alabama/Florida border. Both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties remain just outside the watch area.

Forecasters said Sunday afternoon that the likelihood of tropical storm force winds striking the Pensacola area is about 12%.

Wind speeds are not expected to warrant bridge closures in the area, according to a late afternoon news release from Escambia County.

"We have high confidence in the track moving toward Louisiana, but we are asking residents to remain aware and vigilant," said Emergency Manager Eric Gilmore in the county's news release.

Overall, there is a 3 in 10 to 4 in 10 chance of seeing tropical storm force winds across southeast Mississippi and coastal Alabama.

Closures from Marco and Laura

Gulf Islands National Seashore is closing  its Florida day use areas at 5 p.m. Sunday. Areas that will close include the Fort Pickens Area, Perdido Key Area including Johnson Beach, Opal Beach Area and Okaloosa Area.

A mandatory evacuation of the Fort Pickens campground will occur Monday. All campers are expected to leave the area by 10 a.m.

Escambia County Area Transit beach trolley service is suspended and is expected to resume Thursday.

Where you can get sand

Both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have sand available on a first-come, first-serve basis at several locations. Residents must bring their own sandbags and shovels.

Escambia County locations:

  • Baars Field Athletic Park - 13001 Sorrento Road, Pensacola
  • Brent Athletic Park - 4711 N. W St., Pensacola
  • Don Sutton Park - 2320 Crabtree Church Road, Molino
  • Equestrian Center - 7750 Mobile Highway, Pensacola
  • Escambia County Road Department - 601 Highway 297-A, Pensacola 
  • Ferry Pass Middle School - 8355 Yancey Lane, Pensacola, sand will be on the northwest corner of school property on Parazine Street
  • John R. Jones Jr. Athletic Park - 555 E. Nine Mile Road, Pensacola
  • Travis M. Nelson Park -  4541 County Road 4, Pensacola 

Santa Rosa County locations:

  • Corner of Leisure Street and Citrus Drive in Navarre
  • Tiger Point Park in Gulf Breeze
  • Pace Fire-Rescue in Pace
  • Corner of Pine Forest and Carroll roads in Milton
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