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Meridian, Gulf Coast await Isidore

By Staff
STORM WATCH – John Baxter, warning coordination officer in Meridian for the National Weather Service, monitors Tropical Storm Isidore on Tuesday as it makes its way toward the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Sept. 25, 2002
Nearly all lodgings in Meridian were booked Tuesday as residents of South Louisiana and South Mississippi made plans to flee Tropical Storm Isidore as it churned toward the central Gulf Coast.
Emergency responders also made preparations for the storm that is expected to make landfall early Thursday south of New Orleans and spread heavy rains north to Jackson and Meridian.
Coastal residents began reserving motel rooms in and around Meridian on Monday to escape the tropical storm which forecasters had predicted could become a minimal hurricane before landfall.
John Baxter, warning coordination officer with the National Weather Service in Meridian, said this area could get winds up to 50 mph even though the storm will start to diminish once it hits land.
Informing evacuees
Clarence Butler, director of the Lauderdale Emergency Management Agency, said his agency will set up an emergency operations center at one of the exits off of Interstate 20/59 to direct any evacuees to American Red Cross shelters in town.
He said residents should take extra precautions, such as having access to bottled water and portable radios with extra batteries.
Hotel and motel workers were inundated with calls Tuesday, as was the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau where executive director Sandy Bynum said people were in search of rooms for themselves and also their pets.
She said the bureau is staying in close contact with motels in case openings become available for out-of-towners.
Preparing shelters
Tuesday afternoon, Cheri Barry, executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter, said two emergency shelters are ready for use and she hopes to have three more in place by this afternoon.
At the local Salvation Army Emergency Shelter, Larry Thomas, an employee, said there are 37 beds available.
A hurricane watch was in effect early today from Cameron, La., to Pascagoula, meaning hurricane conditions are possible in the watch area within the next 36 hours.
A tropical storm warning was also in effect from East Texas to Destin, Fla., because tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area during the next 24 hours.
The National Weather Service reported today that the storm is moving north, with little change in strength, at about 7 mph with winds of up to 60 mph. The storm could strengthen during the next 24 hours.
Here is a look at the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which gives people an idea of the potential strength of a hurricane. A tropical storm is classified as a hurricane if it has maximum sustained winds of at least 74 mph.
Category 1: Winds 74-95 mph. Storm surge 4 to 5 feet. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, trees. Can cause minor coastal road flooding. Hurricanes Allison of 1995 and Danny of 1997 were Category 1 storms.
Category 2: Winds 96-110 mph. Storm surge 6 to 8 feet. Roofing, door and window damage. Considerable tree and mobile home damage. Coast escape routes flood two to four hours before center arrives. Hurricane Georges of 1998 was a Category 2 storm.
Category 3: Winds 111-130 mph. Storm surge 9 to 12 feet. Shrubbery and tree damage, with large trees blown down. Mobile homes, some signs destroyed. Low-lying escape routes cut by rising water 3 to 5 hours before center arrives.
Category 4: Winds 131-155 mph. Storm surge 13 to 18 feet. Shrubs, trees, signs blown down. Damage to doors and windows. Low-lying escape routes cut by rising water 3 to 5 hours before center arrives. Hurricanes Felix and Opal of 1995 reached Category 4 status at peak intensity.
Category 5: Winds greater than 155 mph. Storm surge greater than 18 feet. Some complete building failures. All trees and shrubs blown down. Severe window, door damage. Low-lying escape routes cut by rising water 3 to 5 hours before center arrives. Hurricane Camille in 1969 was a Category 5 storm.
Source: National Weather Service