Local officials, residents prepare for up to 10 inches of rain from Barry
Published 12:18 am Friday, July 12, 2019
NATCHEZ — As Tropical Storm Barry slowly crawled across the northern Gulf of Mexico, area officials planned for the approaching storm.
Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service said Natchez and surrounding areas could see as much as 10 inches of rain from the storm.
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As of 4 p.m., Barry had maximum winds of 40 mph and was moving to the west at approximately 5 mph. Thursday afternoon forecast models from the National Hurricane Center show the storm strengthening as it approaches the Louisiana coast late Friday or early Saturday.
The slow movement of the system will result åin a long duration of heavy rainfall through the region through the weekend and potentially into early next week, NWS officials said.
Adams County Emergency Agency Director Robert Bradford said the heavy rainfall and the potential for tropical force winds are among the biggest concerns for the area.
Bradford also said a marginal threat of tornadoes exists as the storm makes its way inland.
“Small storms have the potential to pack a powerful punch,” Bradford said.
Bradford met with local emergency responders and city officials at the Adams County Safe Room to coordinate the area’s response during the storm.
Heavy rainfall, especially in areas that are prone to flooding, could make driving on area streets dangerous, Bradford said. With a large amount of rain in a short period, hydroplaning on the road is also a concern, Bradford said.
“Stay inside if you don’t have to be out driving,” Bradford said. “Please don’t be out sight-seeing and looking at any damage,” Bradford said.
In Vidalia, Mayor Buzz Craft said crews are surveying all of the town’s drains and pumps to make sure everything is clear and in working condition before the storm arises.
In areas that are susceptible to flooding, Craft said he plans to have town employees on duty to monitor pumps and make sure drains stay open during the storm. Craft said these areas include the Vidalia Riverfront, Apple Street and areas on the north side of town known to flood during heavy downpours.
“We will have someone to man those areas 24-7 to make sure drains stay open,” Craft said.
Entergy spokesman Tim Runnels said area crews have already started preparing for Tropical Storm Barry. Runnels said a storm center had been opened in Jackson to oversee the storm response in the state.
“We do a lot of drills throughout the year, to stay prepared,” Runnels said.
Customers should call 1-800-Entergy to report any outages, Runnels said.
“Hopefully this will be a non-event,” Runnels said. “Whatever happens, we will be prepared to do what it takes to get customers’ lights back on.”
Bradford said county residents should have a plan in place, in the event of an outage.
“We do not want people to start panicking,” Bradford said. “The best way for people to keep from panicking is to have a plan.”
As of Thursday afternoon, no area evacuation shelters have been opened. Regional Red Cross Director Debra Davis said potential shelters and volunteers have been put on standby until they know more specifics about the path of the storm.
For now, Bradford said the Adams County Safe Room would be used as a safe haven for residents who need a cool place to stay in the event of a power outage or flooding. Bradford said pets could be brought to the Safe Room. The pets need to be kept in a cage unless they are service animals, Bradford said.
If a shelter is opened in Natchez, Bradford said the Steckler Building on the Natchez High School campus would most likely be used because of the availability of showers.
Bradford said the Safe Room would also be used as a staging area for local responders.
Bradford said sandbags would be available to residents in three locations.
Inside the city limits, sandbags will be available at the Natchez Public Works Office. City residents who want sandbags should use the entrance on Old Washington Road.
For county residents, two sandbag locations will be set up — one at the Foster Mound Volunteer Fire Station and another at the Natchez Adams County Port. In both places, residents are being asked to fill their sandbags. Bags and shovels to fill the bags will be available.
Craft said sandbags are available for Concordia Parish residents at the Concordia Parish Correctional Center on Louisiana15 and also available to.
Because tropical force winds are possible this weekend, Bradford said Natchez Public Works and Adams County crews are prepared to handle downed trees on area roads during the storm.
Bradford said residents should call 911 to report any downed trees across the road or any other emergency. Bradford said the county’s 911 system could pinpoint the location of cell phones, making it easier for crews to respond to emergencies.
“Do not call the police department or the sheriff’s office directly,” Bradford said.
Bradford said he wanted to remind residents that county and city crews cannot come on private property to clear and removed downed trees.
Natchez-Adams Airport Director Richard Nelson said the airport might be used as a safe haven for planes in South Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast.
Nelson said he has let pilots know the airport is available for the relocation of aircraft for the storm. Nelson said many owners with multi-million dollar aircraft look for a safe place to keep their planes during hurricanes and other storms.
Depending on the response, Nelson said between 20-100 people could land at the airport to wait out the storm.
“We will know more (today) when pilots start filing their flight plans,” Nelson said.