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Despite Shutdown, Florida National Guard Plans For Karen Response

As Tropical Storm Karen strengthens on it's way towards the U.S. Gulf Coast, where it's expected to make landfall sometime this weekend, the Florida National Guard is recalling some personnel who were furloughed due to the federal government shutdown to plan for potential storm impacts.

Lt. Col. James Evans, director of public affairs for the Florida National Guard, said that of the state's approximately 2,000 full-time guardsmen about half are furloughed due to the shutdown.

"We do have some ability to exempt some people from the furlough in order to support civil support for imminent threats, and we classify Tropical Storm Karen as an imminent threat," he said.

Evans said they will bring on a small additional staff today to begin planning and preparing for potential storm impacts.

"We're calling in an additional ten (people) so that we can run longer hours, so we can get into more of a 24-hour ops tempo to support the evolving environment with Tropical Storm Karen," he said.

More personnel, "in the dozens," could be recalled in the coming days, depending on storm forecasts.

In the event that the storm begins to impact the state, Evans said it would depend on the declaration of a state of emergency and activation of the guard on "state active duty" by Governor Rick Scott to allow for a more robust response.

Funding for state active duty activities would be paid for by the state, who could then apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement.

Evans said the guard would normally have about two-dozen people immediately available at their joint operations center to begin planning for Karen, but that they are down to "bare bones" staffing because of the shutdown.

Another military branch that could be called into action because of the storm was not affected by the shutdown.

Lt. Paul Rhynard of the U.S. Coast Guard said today that all uniformed personnel have continued to report to work, and civilian employees who support the branch's core mission are exempted from furloughs.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter @patrickhdonges.

Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.