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UPDATE: Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival still on; triathlon canceled
PENSACOLA BEACH -- Months of planning and preparation can go right out the window for events like the Songwriters Festival and the Pensacola Beach Triathlon when mother nature comes calling.
But as is always the case with tropical weather, safety comes first.
The decision was a simple one for the folks running the Santa Rosa island triathlon.
After meeting this morning with the santa rosa island authority -- they decided to cancel the event and let people know as soon as possible.
"We have 1,200 athletes, and they are from 26 states. And so we have people that have already flown in, unfortunately.
But we have people doing 10-12 hour drives tomorrow, with their kids that they're pulling out of school. So we're going to alert them this afternoon not to make that drive. Not to come down here," says Charles Gheen, with the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon.
The Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival is also on stage this weekend. The music takes place mainly indoors.
Organizers are keeping an eye on the storm, playing it by ear and hoping Karen won't close the beach bridge.
"We've got people coming in from everywhere. I mean we've got people driving in from Nashville today. We've got people driving up from South Florida. We've got people coming from all over the United States." "You know making that kind of decision affects a lot of people," says Ron Holladay, with the Pensacola Beach Songwriters Festival.
"But if the bridge is closed for some reason, for higher winds, it's hard for people to come out here to watch it, or to leave. So they're going to have to kind of watch it themselves, and then they're going to make the call on that," says Santa Rosa Island Authority Executive Director Back Lee.
People were out on the beach today, squeezing in a little sunshine time before Karen comes.
Flags were yellow Thursday morning. You can expect red by Friday as the surf builds before the storm.
The public safety crews will be clearing the beach.
"It's not going to be anything like Ivan or anything like that you know. You'll have you know 30-40 mile an hour winds, and high tides. Their condo is on the seventh floor, so if it gets that high, we're all in trouble," says Robert Daniel, who is visiting from Houston, Texas.
What should have been a pretty busy weekend on Pensacola Beach is going to take a hit with Karen out there in the Gulf, but that comes with the territory when you live on the coast.