Electricity outages, tornadoes possible

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 23, 2005

Lincoln County officials kept a close eye on the weather thismorning as Hurricane Rita headed toward the Texas or Louisianacoast and fleeing residents began arriving at local shelters.

“For lack of a better term, I guess we get ready again,”Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil Defense Clifford Galey said duringa morning briefing for officials.

With the potential for wind gusts of 45 mph here, Galey warnedof potential problems with an electrical system still recoveringfrom Hurricane Katrina.

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“We’re also going to be on the bad side of the storm as far assevere weather,” said Galey, adding that he expects tornado watchesto be issued for the area tomorrow.

Galey said at least 80 people fleeing the storm had arrived overthe night at local Red Cross shelters. He did not know if theevacuees were from Louisiana or Texas.

The shelter population at Faith Presbyterian Church was backover 150, Galey said. With Interstate 55 being on a direct routefrom points south, officials were expecting more evacuees to arrivesoon.

“Quite honestly, I expect it to get worse before this thing’sover,” Galey said.

Galey said Indiana National Guard units, who had been providingsecurity at local shelters among other duties, were scheduled tomove out this morning. With the additional evacuees, he said,shelters were requesting help with security.

Citing the I-55 traffic, Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop he wasconcerned about having volunteers able to meet evacuees’ needs.

“Our volunteer base is stretched to the core,” Bishop said.

Projections this morning indicated Hurricane Rita would comeashore along the Texas or southwest Louisiana coast late today orearly Saturday.

Galey said a shift in the hurricane’s direction could meangreater impact on this area. He said Lincoln County remains on theedge.

“If it moves a little further to the east, we’ll be in the conefor severe weather,” Galey said.

In other activity during this morning’s briefing, U.S. ArmyCorps of Engineers representative John Coffey said he expect debriscleanup to pick up in the new few days.

Coffey said operations got off to a typically slow startThursday, but he predicted improvement soon. Despite threats fromHurricane Rita, he said the Corps is “here to stay for awhile.”

“Once we get in the groove, you’ll see some significant change,”Coffey said.