Officials prepare as Isaac nears landfall

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Local officials are preparing to declare a local state of emergency as Tropical Storm Isaac develops to hurricane strength and moves toward landfall tonight or early Wednesday morning.

     At a Monday briefing, Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey told area officials to expect heavy winds, rain and some damage in the local area, including power outages.

     “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the eye come right over Brookhaven,” he said.

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     However, Galey also offered optimism.

     “This is not going to be like Hurricane Katrina,” Galey said.

     Galey expects winds and rain to enter the Lincoln County area today in the late afternoon. As of Tuesday, forecasts called for Isaac to make landfall late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

     The latest forecasts anticipate 8 to 15 inches of rain in Lincoln County between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning, Galey said Tuesday morning. Brookhaven could see sustained winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour and gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour.

     “I think once this starts up, we will have tropical storm force winds,” Galey said Monday, explaining that Lincoln County could experience wind and rain a full 24 hours.

     With a storm on the way, local schools are battening down the hatches.

     Lincoln County and Brookhaven schools and Brookhaven Academy were planning to dismiss today at 1 p.m.

     Lincoln County and Brookhaven schools have already canceled classes on Wednesday, with a decision pending about classes the rest of the week. BA officials had not made a decision about Wednesday classes, but Galey said Tuesday he would expect no classes on Wednesday unless there’s a change in the storm.

     Copiah-Lincoln Community College President Dr. Ronnie Nettles told officials Co-Lin will close Tuesday at 2 p.m., with evening classes canceled and the campus will remain closed on Wednesday. Like Lincoln County schools, a decision will be made Wednesday about the rest of the week’s classes.

     Mississippi School of the Arts released students living south of Highway 98 Monday. All other students will be released today, with classes set to resume Monday.

     Franklin County schools were expected to close at 1:25 p.m. Tuesday with classes not resuming until Friday.

     Lawrence County had a full day of classes planned for Tuesday, with no decision yet made on Wednesday classes.

     Wesson Attendance Center planned a full day of classes Tuesday with no decision made yet about classes Wednesday.

     There are no plans to open shelters in Brookhaven. Galey told local officials contingency plans exist for providing ice and water, but he doesn’t think those plans will be needed.

     Galey pushed local authorities Monday to go ahead and declare a state of emergency.

     “If I get it on file, get it turned in, then if something happens we don’t have to worry about it,” he said.

     County supervisors approved a declaration of emergency Monday afternoon. City aldermen scheduled a called meeting for Tuesday morning and planned to approve the declaration of emergency following another briefing by Galey at 10 a.m.

     Galey told city and county authorities tropical storm, tornado and flash flood warnings would all probably be issued for the county. Area counties were placed under a tropical storm warning Monday.

     “We are on the bad side of the storm,” Galey said.

     Authorities offered several recommendations for local residents.

     City Public Works Director Steve Moreton requested residents not place limbs, leaves and other yard trash by their curbs ahead of the expected storms. He said heavy rains will wash the limbs and debris into city culverts and cause blockages.

     Galey said residents with generators should ensure the generators are not feeding back into the main lines, which can make repairs dangerous for power companies. There should be a switch to prevent this, Galey said.

     Above all, residents should exercise caution.

     “Don’t get out in the storm if you don’t have to,” Galey said.

     Impending storms have also moved the Lincoln County Historical and Genealogical Society to cancel an event planned for tonight, and an art gallery reception planned for Thursday has been moved to Sept. 6.