Hancock braces for heavy rain from Lee

Published 11:43 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

BAY ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hancock County officials are expecting 8 to 15 inches of rain Saturday from Tropical Storm Lee as it makes it way inland.

Emergency Management director Brian Adams said rainfall early Saturday from the storm has “come in spurts … heavy at one time, less at others.”

Adams said streets in low-lying areas of the county are under a voluntary evacuation. He did not know how many people lived in those areas.

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“We’ve got a lot of street flooding in those areas … nothing in houses yet.”

Adams said in addition to rainfall, the National Weather Service expects seas 2 to 5 feet above normal.

“Our east shore faces and wraps around toward New Orleans. We expect heavy, heavy rain,” Adams said.

A shelter was opened in Kiln on Friday night on Mississippi Highway 43.

The National Weather Service expects the storm to produce more than 12 inches of rain and tides 2 to 4 feet higher than normal along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol has reported flooding along U.S. Highway 90, which parallels the beachfront.

Officials in Harrison and Jackson counties were not immediately available for comment.

Gov. Haley Barbour on Friday declared a state of emergency for seven coastal counties as forecasters upgraded the system from a depression to a tropical storm, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. Local counties and cities issued states of emergency as well.

Barbour urged residents to start taking steps as soon as possible to protect family and property.

Later Friday, the city of Biloxi declared a state of emergency as well, and Mayor A.J. Holloway is encouraging residents to begin preparing for the storm’s arrival. The City Council voted late Friday to authorize the order, which gives the mayor broader authority in dealing with the storm. It is also one of the benchmarks required in determining any storm-related expenses that could be reimbursed by the federal government.

City officials said Biloxi remains under a state of emergency from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina since the city is still using temporary wastewater pumps at several beachfront locations.

Power companies reported they were ramping up operations as the storm approached.

“Crews have been assigned critical areas and trucks and materials are ready to respond quickly,” said Lorri Freeman, manager of communications at Singing River Electric Power Association.

Mississippi Power spokeswoman Cindy Duvall said crews and equipment both here and at sister companies in Alabama and Georgia are on standby and “ready to roll” should assistance be needed to restore power and downed lines.

The weather service has issued a flash flood warning through Monday for south Mississippi and large areas of central Mississippi.