Isaac creeps slowly toward Miss-Lou

Published 12:09 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Winds whip the flags on the Natchez Grand Hotel Tuesday afternoon as traffic passes by on Broadway Street. Winds will continue to pick up through Thursday as Hurricane Isaac passes through the Miss-Lou.


By Vershal Hogan & LINDSEY SHELTON

The Natchez Democrat

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NATCHEZ — Hurricane Isaac, a storm apparently in no hurry, left the Miss-Lou waiting late Tuesday night, but not without a bit of what might later be viewed as foreshadowing.

With sunny, blue skies overhead, approximately 2,000 Adams County residents lost power just before 5 p.m. when a tree limb fell on a power line.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — A street light remains out at the intersection of Melrose Avenue and John A. Quitman Boulevard as Entergy workers wait nearby Tuesday evening during a power outage.

Entergy workers had restored power an hour later to all but 48 customers.

It was an ominous outage to many Miss-Lou residents who fear power outages the most this week.

Both Entergy and Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association have crews on standby, but neither are promising a problem-free storm.

If the storm moved along its predicted path, 20 to 30 mph winds were expected to start in the Miss-Lou just after midnight today, peaking at 45 miles per hour with gusts in excess of 60 miles per hour beginning just after noon today.

Sustained winds are then expected to drop back down gradually throughout the day and into the night.

Rain was expected to begin overnight and continue into Friday and Saturday. One National Weather Service prediction said total rainfall in the area could be more than 10 inches, if the storm stays on the predicted path.

Natchez Entergy Customer Service Manager Tim Runnels said Entergy will work to restore any outages as soon as possible, but workers cannot raise the bucket on their trucks to work in 30-35 mph winds.

“That’s when we start getting concerned,” he said.

The tropical storm-force winds and rain make the chances of an outage likely, Runnels said.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — A crew member with ABC Professional Tree Services cuts down a dead limb of a tree that is near a power line on Homochitto Street Tuesday afternoon in preparation of winds from Hurricane Isaac.

“A wet tree hitting a power line is obviously going to cause more damage than a dry one,” he said. “The winds will cause branches and trees to knock again the poles and line, so it is really a combination of both wind and rain.”

He said the company also has scouts that will check downed lines and poles and dispatch either a single person or a crew.

“It saves us a lot of time knowing whether we need to send one guy or a whole crew,” Runnels said. “We use common sense on when to send the crews out, and we’ll have them out there working to get power back on as soon as they can safely do it.”

Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association, which could not be reached for comment, issued a release Monday saying customers should prepare for the possibility of a three- to five-day power outage.

Crews from other electric power associations may assist Southwest with repairs, if needed.

In the event of a power outage, residents using portable medical equipment can bring their equipment to Natchez Regional Medical Center to be recharged, Director of Physician Relations Sarah Smith said.

Both Natchez Regional and Natchez Community Hospital will be powered by generators in the event of an outage.

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — The winds were a hair raising experience for K-mart employee Veronica Campbell as she walked out of the store Tuesday afternoon past the American flag whipping in the winds created by the approaching hurricane.

Isaac became a hurricane before lunch Tuesday and made landfall at 6:45 p.m. near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Just after 9 p.m., the National Weather Service reported that the eye of the storm had moved westward, back over the gulf waters.

The storm danced westward all day Tuesday, putting Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday on the more dangerous, eastern side of the storm.

Continued westward movement over night could decrease the risk for the Miss-Lou, though.

No local shelters were open Tuesday night, and Adams County officials said the winds forecast for the area are not expected to exceed the requirements set out by the state for mobile home stability.

“The wind zone that we are in, the state requires mobile or manufactured homes to be able to withstand 74 mile per hour speed winds, hurricane status winds,” Adams County Emergency Director Stan Owens said. “We shouldn’t have that. Right now the best guess is 50 to 60 mile per hour wind gusts.”

Nonetheless, Owens said he recommended anyone living in a mobile or manufactured home seek a stronger, more substantial shelter.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning adopted a resolution recommending the same.

The hurricane brings with it the potential for tornadic activity, Owens said.

The county has one of its emergency shelters on alert, Owens said, but there were no plans Tuesday morning to open it. If a small number of residents need shelter after the storm, it’s possible they could be housed in local hotels or motels, he said.

In Concordia Parish, Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington issued an executive order Tuesday declaring the parish to be in a state of emergency. Adams County and Natchez issued similar such declarations Monday.

“We are getting ready for the storm, we have been out throughout the parish making sure all our main drainage ditches are open, and we have crews on standby in case we have any downed trees and to make sure we can do what we can in case of high water,” Ferrington said.

“If we get 70 mph winds we are going to have some trees down, and we will be out there taking care of those if it does happen. We are preparing for the worst and hoping it doesn’t get here.”

Owens also asked the supervisors to preemptively approve a resolution asking the governor to declare Adams County to be in a state of emergency. Owens said the request was so he would have the resolution on hand should the storm result in significant damage, but that it would not be sent if it was not needed.

Isaac may not be all bad, though, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Bob Anderson said.

The rain from Hurricane Isaac could raise the level of the Mississippi River one foot.

“We’re hoping very much so that will be the case, which would be great for us and the shipping industry,” Anderson said.

Recent low river levels have forced the Corps to shut down portions of the river to shipping traffic and have been the No. 1 thing on the Corps’ radar, Anderson said.

“That was until the hurricane, now it’s No. 1 on our radar,” he said.