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County officials keep close watch on tropical storm

As Tropical Storm Isidore churns in the Gulf of Mexico,Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil Defense officials are taking someprecautions in case the storm returns to hurricane status and headstoward Louisiana or the Mississippi Coast.

Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said the county has notbeen placed under any alerts. However, he said preparations areunder way in case the county has to deal with coastal evacuees.

“We have been talking to the Red Cross about opening shelters,”Galey said. “We’ll talk with the city and county, as well as lawenforcement, today.”

Isidore spent Monday over the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Thestorm on Tuesday was expected to move over the Gulf of Mexico andstrengthen into a hurricane again.

Projections had it heading north, where it could threaten theU.S. Gulf Coast. Wind and rain from the fringe of the storm couldbe felt on the coast by late Tuesday, forecasters said.

With Interstate 55 going through the county, Galey said LincolnCounty usually sees an influx of evacuees from the New Orleans andthe surrounding area when bad weather threatens the coast.

Hotel rooms become much-sought commodities.

Carole Swann, general manager of the Hampton Inn, said peoplestarting making reservations last week, and the hotel was booked upfor the days ahead. She said she knew of no available hotel roomsin Brookhaven, and Jackson was also filled up.

“It’s just wild,” Swann said this morning as several telephonesrang in the background. “Everybody wants to make reservations forWednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

Citing weather service projections, Galey said the storm couldbe over Lincoln County on Thursday or Friday. He said the stormwould have weakened, but there was still the potential forproblems.

“I would expect we could have sustained winds of 25-30 miles perhour,” Galey said. “There’s always the possibility of heavy rainand tornadoes when it gets this far inland.”

Galey encouraged officials and citizens to be weatherconscious.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of what the weatherservice is saying about the storm,” Galey said. “If need be, we canprepare pretty quickly.”