Heavy rain expected in Mississippi from depression

Published 12:26 pm Friday, September 2, 2011

BILOXI (AP) — One of Mississippi’s three coastal counties has declared a state of emergency due to a tropical weather system in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Rent said Jackson County declared a state of emergency Friday morning. Jackson County, which borders Alabama, is home to Ingalls Shipyard, Mississippi’s largest private employer.

Rent said MEMA is having ongoing discussions with officials in the state’s six southernmost counties about what preparations they’re making and “how we can support them through this.”

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Rent said the main concern is water, with 17 to 20 inches of rain possible in some areas. Coastal flooding is another concern due to an expected surge up to four feet. Wind could also uproot trees in soggy soil and knock out power.

MEMA plans to send sandbags to Hattiesburg, a halfway point between Jackson and the coast. Officials from south Mississippi can pick up the bags there.

“There’s going to be some wind. You have all the typical things that come with a tropical system — torrential rain, some wind, there could be some spinoff tornados,” Rent said.

“When you have rain over several days, it doesn’t take much wind to knock down trees. So there will be some power outages,” Rent said. “We’re concerned about all the effects, but what concerns us the most is the rainfall. It will be wave after wave of showers and storms.”

The depression could become Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Around midday Friday, the center of the depression was nearly stationary off the Louisiana coast with top sustained winds of 39 mph. Its center was expected to make landfall in Louisiana over the weekend.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for coastal Mississippi. That warning extends from Pascagoula to Sabine Pass, Texas.

While officials are keeping a close watch on the tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico, so far it has not caused a lot of concern for tourism, said Taryn Sammons, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“As far as I know everything is still going on as planned. I haven’t heard of any cancelations,” Sammons said.

Sammons said the Mississippi Gulf Coast markets many indoor activities that wouldn’t be hampered by rainy weather, such as casinos, museums and restaurants.